Niagara Gazette

Local News

May 18, 2013

Gov. Cuomo talks tough with Indians over casinos

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — "Under these current circumstances, I don't see how any state officials could support extending the compact when the other side hasn't paid," Cuomo said.

Similarly, the St. Regis Mohawks have withheld $59 million since 2010. The nation has cited illegal slot machines on other Mohawk land in its exclusive northern New York territory.

The desire to settle these disputes takes on more urgency with a statewide vote to expand gambling possible in November. Tribal agreements would allow Cuomo to focus on building support with lawmakers, the public and other gambling interests. The tribes, as Cuomo explains it, would receive assurances that new casinos won't open in their backyards.

"It's a poker game, is the way I look at it, between the Senecas and the governor and between the other casinos and the governor as well," said Don Grinde, a University at Buffalo professor of transnational studies who has written extensively on the Iroquois and U.S. Indian policy. "Cuomo could be bluffing, the Senecas could just say, 'We're just going to hold our hand and see what happens after all the cards are dealt out.'"

Seneca Nation President Barry Snyder has reacted with some tough talk of his own, accusing Cuomo of using "playground bully tactics" as the tribe acts in good faith and negotiates diplomatically.

The Mohawk tribal government has not commented on Cuomo's remarks.

James W. Ransom, who dealt with state leaders when he was a Mohawk chief, said Cuomo should be building relationships with the Mohawks, not threatening them.

"Rather than say, 'OK, let's sit down and see how we can work together,' it's, "Do it my way or else,'" Ransom said. "I mean it's easy to say but it's hard to do and it doesn't produce win-win relationships, and that's really what the state needs."

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Do you think cigarette sales to non-Native American customers should be taxed on reservations?

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