Industry Reports

Seneca Nation Seeks Justice via the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act

Seneca Nation of Indians is determined to complicate matters for all parties involved in the New York allocations dispute since it is discontent with the recent arbitration panel ruling mandating a significant payment. The Native American tribe is now after a federal review of a Compact amendment, which could change the direction of development of this debate.

When the arbitration panel ruled that the Native American tribe has to pay some US$255,877,747.44 to New York state few people acquainted with the subject were positive that such payment would actually happen. Projections were that the Seneca Nation would take advantage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and try to get away from the substantial payment. Now all suspicions are being confirmed by the recent request.

Seneca Nation Seeks Amendment Review

The United States Department of the Interior would have to conduct a review on the amendment done by the arbitration panel. This action is justified by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the Native American tribe wants to make good use of the regulation.

Seneca Nation cited this Compact for operation and its timeline when management announced in March 2017 they would no longer pay regular allocations as a result of generated gaming revenue. According to the Compact in its current state, the Native American tribe had to make regular gaming revenue allocations for 14 years only.

The Compact was approved in 2002, meaning that 2016 was the last year to see financial support coming from the tribal casinos overseen by the Seneca Nation of Indians. As they claim, the discord between the tribe and New York state officials stems from the fact that its details were not understood correctly.

Instead, the arbitration panel members were quick to make amendments to the said Compact and demand the payments to continue. The Seneca Nation’s position on the subject claims that this is a clear case of misinterpretation and acting against previously established Compact arrangement. In their recent claim, it was pointed out that the arbitration panel ignored the federal law.

Allocation Reaches US$255 Million

When it comes to Compact amendment, a strict procedure has to be respected and conducted. It is mandatory that the United States Department of Interior review it in a careful manner and anything different would mean that the federal government compromises its trust responsibility to Native American tribes and their operation within the state. This review will determine the outcome of this complicated situation.

The three-party arbitrary panel includes Kavin Wahburn, University of Iowa Law School Dean and member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma who was the only member defending the Seneca Nation and opposing a Compact amendment. It mandates regular payments from here on out, as well as a US$255-million payment for casino operation after 2017.

Said allocation comes as a result of tribal casino venue operation in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Salamanca. A total of 25 percent of the gaming revenue goes to city coffers and is used for various projects in need of financing. For Niagara Falls, said allocations are crucial, as local officials had to borrow some US$12 million in order to fill in some holes in the budget and cover expenses.