Niagara Gazette

Local News

December 30, 2012

TOP 10: Absence of casino funds hits Falls hard (No. 3)

Niagara Gazette — The ongoing gaming revenue dispute between New York state and the Seneca Nation of Indians caused pain and anxiety for every department in city government in 2012. 

While city officials pointed to the lack of incoming gaming revenue as reason for belt-tightening this year, residents — who saw the city give up valuable downtown land in exchange for the promise of yearly contributions from the casino’s profits — felt the bulk of the pain as the battle continued to wage between two entities that seem unconcerned about their troubles.

When the money was coming in, things were good. Roads were being repaved at rates the city hadn’t seen since the heyday of industrial opportunity in the Falls. Mayor Paul Dyster was able to set up teams of city workers from several departments to address blight one block at a time. Property tax increases were small or non-existent.

For the last couple years, city officials were able to continue spending in anticipation of receiving the money that the city is owed — now estimated to be around $60 million — which the Senecas have been holding in an account, at the ready for a compromise with the state or a resolution to the ongoing arbitration.

Dyster said things looked like they might be coming to an end last fall but, after a deal between the two sides fell through, the prospect of an end to the dispute outside the court system faded.

“I think that much of what you saw throughout the year was a hardening of positions from both the Senecas and the state,” Dyster said.

Dyster said with Barry Snyder Sr. recently elected as the new president of the Seneca Nation there is still hope that a settlement can be reached outside of the arbitration process, and sooner rather than later.

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