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Still no sit-down between Governor and Senecas on casino payments

WBFO's Mike Desmond

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Seneca Nation President Todd Gates almost met Tuesday to talk about casino revenues.
The two sides have been saying they will sit down and talk face to face ever since the Seneca Nation said it has fulfilled its contract obligations with New York State and has stopped paying a share of casino revenues to Albany. That cash is then distributed to Buffalo and other communities.

The Governor says casino payments should continue, while Gates says it is up to Albany to distribute the cash.

"We fulfilled our obligation, I think. That's the way it's gonna be," said Gates. "The state made that obligation to pay the localities. If they want to keep that up, keep it up and we'll move forward and develop our properties so that we can remain competitive, really. The other ones are developing theirs. They are getting money. They are getting investors. It's hard for us to do that when there is this cloud hanging out there of him saying things that are not per the compact."

Gates says members of the nation believe the governor has been disrespectful to Seneca in saying the nation has a pattern of not meeting terms of agreements. At issue is a lot of money.

"It was averaging around $125 million a year, so you divide that into four, in quarterly payments," said Gates. "But it's been steadily going down. I think last time it was around $110 million divided by four. It's just slicing that gambling pie thinner all the time, with New York legalizing gambling and Pennsylvania developing theirs and Canada doing even more. It's a tough market."

Gates says the nation will be investing in its casinos to help it compete in that tough market.

Loss of that revenue is a major hit to Niagara Falls, whose Mayor has said the city is cutting back on services because of a lack on cash. It is a major hit to even Salamanca, located on Seneca land with a heavily Seneca population, including Mayor Mike Smith.

However, Gates said the nation helps the city.

"Mike Smith and them, they have some money to keep it going, for now," Gates said. "We're willing to help. We help the City of Salamanca all the time. It's beyond just a revenue share. It's part of the Seneca Nation."

The Seneca president said the Governor is not the only one who seems unable to schedule time for a meeting. The Thruway Authority cancelled a meeting and has not re-scheduled.

The Thruway runs across Seneca land. The Nation has long complained it is not paid enough for that and would like more Seneca companies to get contract work on the highway.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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