A Press Release from the Seneca Nation of Indians
The Seneca Nation of Indians today took out a full-page ad
in The Buffalo News pointing out in the wake of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pledge of
$1 billion in incentives to the region that the Nation already invested that
much in its local businesses.
“The Seneca Nation of Indians Welcomes Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s
Pledge of $1 Billion to Buffalo and Western New York,” the ad headline reads.
“This is our home. Where we have invested $1 billion of our own funds to build
new businesses and create new jobs.”
The ad comes on a day that Seneca Nation President Robert
Odawi Porter plans to attend a news conference at 10 a.m. today with State Sen.
George Maziarz at the Niagara Falls International Airport.
The ad is part of the Nation’s statewide campaign to promote
and maintain its exclusive right to casino gaming in a “zone of exclusivity”
agreed to in a 2002 state law. The Nation wants the law, an agreement known as
a “compact” maintained, even if the
state decides to approve statewide casino gaming.
The Nation does not oppose statewide casino gambling, but
expects state lawmakers to honor state law and retain the Nation’s 14-county
exclusivity zone. In his State of the State speech last week, Cuomo mentioned
amending the state Constitution to permit casino gambling, a long process that
requires passage by two successive Legislatures and a public referendum of the
Today’s ad also states, “The Seneca Nation’s annual $1
billion business, combined with the state’s promised $1 billion investment will
keep the Western New York economy strong and growing. Honor the 2002 Compact.
Support the Seneca Nation’s exclusive right to gaming in Western New York.” The
add also promotes a web site, www.senecasmeanbusiness.com
President Porter reiterated that the Nation’s regional
monopoly comes at a high cost to its gaming business, both in money already
invested and in revenues shared with the state and three host municipalities.
The Nation, which invested $900 million over the last 10 years in three casinos
and two resort hotels, has debt-service agreements based on that exclusive zone
The zone needs to be protected by the state law on which the
investment is based. The Nation’s compact with New York states: “the Nation
shall have total exclusivity with respect to the installation and operation
of…gaming devices, including slot machines, within the geographic area defined
by…” the area west of State Route 14.
President Porter emphasized that the 21-year agreement
guarantees that the Nation’s investment would be exclusive and he expects the
state to honor the law the Legislature passed and Gov. George E. Pataki signed.
In return for that exclusivity, the Nation paid the state
and its casinos’ host communities – Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca – $476
million from 2002-2009. With Indian-owned and -run casinos, the state did not have
to regulate casinos, create new levels of government to manage casino business
or deal with repercussions on casino-host communities.
The Nation’s statewide advocacy campaign opened Jan. 5 to
emphasize its businesses’ economic contributions to Western New York and to
protect its exclusive right to casino gaming in the region, regardless of what
the state government does to permit casinos in New York.
The Senecas Mean Business campaign is promoting the benefits
of the Nation’s $1.1 billion economy,
including the $125 million annual payroll for its 6,000 employees and the $167
million spent annually with local businesses and suppliers.
The campaign is also designed to increase awareness of the
Nation and its rights for state legislators and average New Yorkers from other
regions who may not understand its history and achievements.
On Dec. 12, the Nation formally filed for arbitration over
New York’s violation of its gaming compact that guarantees the Nation a
14-county Western New York exclusivity zone for casino gambling. The decision
came after more than a year of unproductive discussions with state officials
from two gubernatorial administrations. The Nation withheld what now totals
more than $350 million in payments to the state, for gaming activity starting
Jan. 1, 2009, because of the violations. Between 2002 and 2009, the Nation paid
the state, and the three communities that host Seneca casinos, $476 million
under the compact’s provisions.
There have recently been assertions that host communities
should sue the Nation to gain access to the withheld funds. However, the Nation
has long held the local communities harmless in the dispute with the state and
even supported legislation introduced two years ago in Albany that would permit
the Nation to pay Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca directly.
Currently the host cities’ revenues go to the state, which
some 12-18 months later pays the cities.
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