This Tuesday was a long-anticipated day for both the Seneca Nation of Indians and New York State, entangled in a feud ever since March 2017. According to the most recent ruling of the three-party arbitration, which ruled that the Native American tribe must resume its annual allocations to the New York State amassed by its gaming venue operation. They will amount to $100 million per year, as it has been previously established.
The dispute between the state and the Native American tribe has been one of the heated conflicts in the region and the gaming field, as it deprives New York State of substantial financial support generated by tribal casino venue operation. In this sense, players trying their luck and testing their skills fail to improve the community and boost its development. Litigation was eyed by the two parties for some time, but eventually, the first days of November saw an unexpected turn of events.
Disputes Dates Back to March 2017
Instead of taking matters to court, New York State and the Seneca Nation of Indians decide it will be wiser if arbitration takes place. Members of the panel had enough time to think through their decision and weigh all factors which had the potential to tilt the scales. Back in November, the individuals protecting the two parties’ interest were announced.
University of New Mexico law professor Kevin Washburn was appointed as Seneca Nation’s arbitrator. In the meantime, Henry Gutman was named as the individual who had the important task of protecting the state’s interest. Both individuals were proposed by the disputing parties, but it should be pointed out that Mr. Gutman already had had experience with a relatively similar situation of dispute taking place back in 2013.
Aforementioned mandatory allocations amount to some 25 percent of the gaming revenue of the Senecas Nation of Indians. This quarter is then spread equally across the region, making sure that the state and the three communities to the likes of Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Salamanca. Casino venues are located there and they receive their fair share as compensation for gaming operation. As a result of the lack of payments, Niagara Falls witnessed several tough months without the financial support.
So What Comes Next?
The Native American tribe seized its regular payments in March 2017, claiming that the end of 2016 saw the end of the mandatory 14-year allocation period and they are no longer obligated to make the payments. Now the panel came up with its provision which aims to make some adjustments to the tribal Compact under which the community operates within the borders of New York. This means that the Indian tribe will have to go back to its annual 25-percent allocations to the state and its communities where gambling operation is in progress.
Their last payment for Q4 2016 reached $30 million. Now the arbitrary panel’s vote showed 2-to-1 in favor of the decision and the individual who opposed it was Mr. Washburn who protects the tribe’s interest. He claimed that this change is going to negatively impact the Indian tribe by depriving it of a large sum of money and allocating it to the state. Shortly after the announcement that the panel has voted in support of the payments, Nation President Rickey Armstrong Sr. stated that the tribe is going to take into account the voiced opinion and decide its next move.
According to its Compact, the Seneca Nation of Indiand has the right to appeal the decision. Rich Azzopardi, an aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo claimed that this arbitration panel aimed to settle the dispute while keeping all factors in mind. The only logical move at this point for the Indian tribe would be to resume regular payments ahead of 2023, in alignment with the amended Compact.