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Leaders in Niagara Falls urge arbitration to resolve Seneca casino payment dispute

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Leaders in the City of Niagara Falls are not pressing the panic button following last week's announcement that the Seneca Nation of Indians would cease casino revenue payments to Albany. But the mayor and a State Assemblyman who represents the city are urging the Senecas and state to come together immediately to smooth out any disputes over their compact.

Last week, the Senecas announced they will make their final $110 million dollar payment to Albany at the end of this week. They're not pleased with the growth of state-run gaming centers, something they consider a violation of their casino compact. The language of that compact, they believe, gives them the opportunity to cease payments.

During last week's announcement, Seneca President Todd Gates suggested his nation, if necessary, would be willing to negotiate directly with the cities surrounding the sovereign territories on which the Senecas operate casinos, in order to continue good working relationships. Those cities are Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca.

Niagara Falls mayor Paul Dyster was calmly awaiting further developments between the Senecas and State of New York and expressed no concern for any economic threat to his city.

"What I take from what I heard from President Gates is that the Seneca Nation of Indians is not looking to harm the interests of the City of Niagara Falls, and if all else fails make some provisions to make us whole," said Niagara Falls mayor Paul Dyster. "We're nowhere near that as we stand today."

But Dyster and State Aassemblyman Angelo Morinello are urging the Senecas and state leaders to resolve any compact disagreements as soon as possible. Morinello, a retired judge and longtime attorney, says the way to do that is through arbitration.

"To do it any other way is outside the four corners of the compact," Morinello said. "That's why I'm urging the governor and the Seneca Nation to utilize the process and move toward an expedient compromise that will benefit all parties."

Since the casino compact took effect in 2002, the Seneca Nation has forwarded nearly one and a half billion dollars in revenues to Albany, which has then redistributed portions of those payments to Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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