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Ortt urges Governor, Senecas to come to table and settle casino compact dispute

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A meeting to discuss an ongoing dispute over the Seneca Nation's casino compact was, according to a local State Senator, canceled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Senator Robert Ortt is urging both sides to work out a new meeting time and reach an agreement that, he says, will restore funding that is much needed by entities in Niagara Falls.

Ortt, while appearing Tuesday in Niagara Falls to announce state funding for three local hospitals, announced that Cuomo had called off a planned meeting with the Senecas in order to focus his attention on continuing mass transit issues in the Metro New York City area.

"I don't doubt that's a real issue downstate but the compact issue, and the fact the Senecas have said they're not going to pay because they don't believe the language requires them to pay, this issue needs to be addressed," Ortt said. 

The Seneca Nation announced in March it would make a final quarterly payment of $30.4 million, completing what it contends is an obligation that – per the compact – ended after fourteen years.

Hospitals are just some of the entities that depend on shares of Seneca casino payments. Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, Ortt stated, was receiving $750,000 per year. The hospital is one of three in Niagara County currently undergoing multi-million dollar capital projects.

"The hospital sent a letter both to the governor and to Seneca Nation President (Todd) Gates," the senator said. "In fact, in their letter they highlighted the economic impact the funds have had and the work the hospital has done, also putting their own skin in the game. To me, anyone who's paying attention can see the need and the benefit to having that meeting and getting that resolved sooner or later."

Governor Cuomo's Press Office, in an email to WBFO Tuesday, offered this statement: "Our office has been attempting to schedule a meeting, but has not yet reached any agreeable dates with the Seneca Nation. We remain open to meeting and are actively working toward that goal. In the interim, the Seneca Nation continue to have an ongoing obligation to pay the state under the Compact."

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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