Niagara Gazette

Local News

May 18, 2013

Gov. Cuomo talks tough with Indians over casinos

Niagara Gazette — ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo's tough talk about Indian casinos breaks with the past practice of governors treading carefully with tribes sharply protective of their sovereign rights.

Cuomo's explanation is simple: Money disputes between the state and the tribes have simmered for years. Now he is proposing three casinos in yet-to-be disclosed locations in upstate New York. And he wants voters to decide on an amendment to the state constitution this year that would allow full casinos off of Indian land.

It's time to make decisions.

"I would imagine he's moving down his agenda and he needs some more money, maybe this is a good time to take it on," said Jeffrey Stonecash, who teaches political science at Syracuse University's Maxwell School. "I would imagine most of the people in the state are sympathetic to the state squeezing the Indian nations."

Cuomo was already in negotiations with the Oneida Indian Nation on May 9 when he warned that the state would consider allowing casinos near existing operations run by tribes that were not in good standing with the state. The talks bore fruit Thursday with an agreement that would provide exclusive territory for the Oneida's Turning Stone casino in central New York. The state would get a cut of casino revenue, and local tax and land disputes would be resolved.

Agreements will likely be harder with the Senecas and the Mohawks because of ongoing money disputes.

The Seneca Nation of Indians has withheld more than $500 million in casino payments to the state since 2009, claiming that New York violated a compact with the tribe by allowing video slot gambling in its exclusive western New York territory. The Senecas, who operate casinos in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Salamanca, are in binding arbitration with the state.

Cuomo suggested Thursday that the Senecas' compact would not be renewed after 2016 if they do not reach a deal.

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