New York, Senecas End Lengthy Legal Dispute Over Gaming Payments

Posted on: January 12, 2022, 11:41h. 

Final up to date on: January 12, 2022, 11:41h.

New York and the Seneca Nation of Indians have resolved their longstanding authorized battle over their gaming compact and agreed to start negotiations on a brand new accord.

Seneca Nation
Seneca Nation President Matthew Pagels, with different tribal leaders behind him, pronounces Wednesday night time that the tribe has reached an settlement with New York to finish its four-year authorized battle over funds the state mentioned it deserved as a part of the gaming compact between the entities. The settlement additionally stipulates that either side will start talks on a brand new compact to exchange the one which’s set to run out in December 2023. (Picture: Seneca Media & Communications Heart)

Seneca Nation President Matthew Pagels introduced the settlement in a message Wednesday night time to tribal members on Fb and Twitter. He mentioned that the deal requires the tribal nation, which operates three Class III tribal casinos in western New York, to present the state the again funds it was initially awarded by way of arbitration.

In keeping with the Buffalo Information, the tribe has held about $450 million in an escrow account to cowl the funds whereas the dispute labored its manner by way of the federal courts.

The great religion negotiations for a brand new compact are to begin inside 60 days, Pagels mentioned in a five-minute tackle with different Seneca Nation leaders standing behind him.

For 4 years, we vigorously raised many compact considerations in a number of authorized challenges,” he mentioned. “Fairly than pursue continued authorized motion, we consider it’s in one of the best curiosity of the Seneca Nation to handle these vital considerations by way of a negotiation of a compact that may present readability on our obligations, and equally as vital, the obligations New York State has to the Seneca Nation in return.”

A message to Hochul’s workplace late Wednesday was not instantly returned.

Historical past of the Seneca Lawsuit

The 2 sides agreed to a 21-year gaming compact in 2002. The deal included a 14-year base settlement and a seven-year possibility that may be mechanically enacted if neither occasion objected. The preliminary deal included language calling for the tribe to make funds to the state, with these funds regularly rising to a 25 p.c income share by 12 months 14. Nevertheless, the choice didn’t embody that language.

Tribal leaders claimed the nation may cease making funds, and New York officers disagreed, sending the matter to a three-person arbitration panel.

After a cut up determination went the state’s manner, the Seneca Nation filed a federal lawsuit in June 2019 and claimed the arbitrators did not observe the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in making its ruling. In November of that 12 months, a decide dominated in opposition to the tribe.

The Senecas appealed that call. Nevertheless, the Second Circuit Courtroom of Appeals additionally ruled on the state’s behalf final February.

After selecting to not proceed the enchantment, the tribe went again to the federal district courtroom and tried to get the ruling vacated after the US Division of the Inside instructed Seneca leaders that it didn’t carry out an financial evaluation on the seven-year possibility. That’s required underneath IGRA.

Tribal leaders then requested US District Decide William Skretny in September to delay ordering the cost whereas the National Indian Gaming Commission decided, on the federal authorities’s request, if the again cost would violate IGRA. The federal tribal gaming regulation requires the nation to be the “sole proprietary curiosity” for its on line casino operations, and it additionally stipulates that any revenue-sharing agreements with state governments should give tribal nations one thing of worth in return.

Pagels: Time for a “New Chapter”

Final month, Skretny denied the Seneca Nation’s movement to remain the order. In his 22-page order, the decide mentioned that the tribe didn’t show it might face an “undue hardship” from federal authorities if it made the cost.

Fairly than proceed with one other enchantment, Pagels mentioned it was time to maneuver ahead.

This settlement marks a brand new chapter within the relationship between our governments,” he mentioned. “The Seneca Nation has realized an ideal deal about gaming operations and laws over the past 19 years. We intend to make use of that data to barter a contract that acknowledges the Seneca Nation as the first regulator of our gaming operations and likewise make sure that the proceeds from our gaming operations are used to fulfill the wants of our individuals firstly.”

The Seneca Nation will discover itself negotiating with a brand new chief as Gov. Kathy Hochul changed former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who resigned in August. That’s vital for a few causes.

First, Hochul is a Buffalo native and earlier than she turned lieutenant governor and now governor, she represented town, which has one of many three Seneca casinos, as its consultant in Congress. Second, Hochul has promised to run New York’s authorities otherwise than her predecessor, who was identified for his brash and heavy-handed bargaining techniques.

“We’re assured she and her administration will work in good religion with the Seneca Nation on a compact that’s honest and equitable,” Pagels mentioned.

Case Might Influence Future Tribal Gaming Compacts

Apart from an settlement to begin talks on a brand new compact, the nation additionally will obtain greater than $40 million in disputed charges and value financial savings over the remaining two years of the compact, Pagels mentioned. These funds can be helpful as Seneca members proceed to take care of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impression it’s had on the nation’s well being and financial system.

He additionally mentioned different tribal entities will profit from what the Senecas went by way of over the past 4 years.

“By our efforts, the Seneca Nation has reset the bar for the way a compact can be considered and reviewed on the federal degree to make sure that we’re being handled pretty and never encumbered by unjust obligations,” the Seneca Nation’s president mentioned. “We strongly consider that our management on this problem will finally profit all native nations within the respective compact negotiations going ahead.”

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