Niagara Gazette

February 3, 2013

Report: Cuomo to propose state-run casino for the Falls

Staff and wire reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is reported to be planning to propose a new casino in Niagara Falls, where the state has a long-standing dispute with the Seneca Nation over revenue sharing.

Cuomo's move could be a way of jump-starting stalled talks over more than $500 million in gambling revenue payments the tribe has withheld in a contract dispute with the state. Or it could be an attempt to bring competition to the tribe's Western New York gambling empire.

The Buffalo News cited a Cuomo administration source who insisted on anonymity. The administration didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.

The newly created state Gaming Commission would have to determine that the state's 2002 casino compact with the Senecas has been breached before a non-Indian casino could be built in the city.

In recent years, the Senecas haven't made payments to the state and localities, saying the state violated the compact by allowing casino-style gambling at racetracks in Hamburg and Batavia.

The Senecas have not made payments to New York since 2009 because, they assert, the state has violated the exclusivity clause in the gaming compact making the agreement void. In turn the state has not paid the host cities of Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca.

The stoppage in casino revenue payments is a major factor in the Falls' current financial woes. The city had been recieving around $18 million in casino revenues a year and is now owed more than $60 million.

Mayor Paul Dyster has repeatedly said that the city fully expects to be paid the money it is owed after the arbitration between the state and Senecas is settled.

Cuomo has said he wanted to bring three non-Indian casinos to upstate as a revenue source but he hasn't publicly identified specific sites.

For Cuomo's casino plan to move forward, state lawmakers will have to again pass an amendment to the state's constitution allowing the state to regulate up to seven casinos statewide, and voters would have to approve it.

Cuomo last month said the state would honor any casino-related agreements that are "in good standing," but did not say whether he considers the Seneca compact to be among them. After meeting with Cuomo last week, lawmakers said the number of casinos included in "phase one" of his gambling plan is "evolving."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.