Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday it’s time for the Seneca Nation to pay “what they owe,” following a Monday court ruling that sided with New York state.
Cuomo made the comments on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City ruling that affirmed the Seneca Nation is obligated to pay the state casino compact funding.
“We have a decision in the ongoing trial with the Seneca Nation. The Seneca Nation, for those who don't remember, 2013 New York reached a landmark agreement with the Seneca Nation recognizing exclusivity of the Seneca Casinos in Western New York. The agreement was based on trust and respect, and it was one that I was proud to make,” Cuomo said. “This morning the U.S. second circuit court of appeals again affirmed the need for the Seneca Nation to fulfill their obligations and pay what they owe in exchange for those gaming rights. The court's decision was clear, and after years of delay, multiple appeals, and multiple court losses it is high time the Seneca Nation follows the law and pays what they owe, and it is significant funding, especially for the communities involved, as well as the state.”
The appeals court ruling follows an arbitration award, handed down in November, 2019 by Senior U.S. District Court Judge William Skretny in Buffalo, that directed the payment of hundreds of millions of dollars in casino revenue sharing funds to the state of New York and host communities.
Skretny, in his 30-page decision, wrote that "the correctness of (an) (arbitrator's) decision is not now at issue." Rather, the judge said, the only question to be resolved was whether or not the three-member arbitration panel "manifestly disregarded governing law in reaching its determination."
Skretny wrote, "This court finds that it did not."
In dismissing the Seneca lawsuit, Skretny also granted a request by the state to confirm the arbitration award.
It's not clear how much cash the Senecas actually owe Niagara Falls and other host commuities. Under the compact’s structure, the nation paid 25 percent of its slot machine revenue to the state government in quarterly installments. State officials allocated 25 percent of what it received to the Falls.
The city was due 11 quarterly payments last February.
State officials said Monday that the Seneca Nation owes about $435 million to the state with more than $100 million of that for local governments.
“The Seneca Nation is reviewing today’s decision and discussing all of our options at this time,” the tribal nation said through a spokesperson in a statement Monday, according to Casino.org.