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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was joined Wednesday by Seneca Nation President Barry E. Snyder Sr. to present a check for $89 million to the City of Niagara Falls, delivering the first payment as part of the landmark agreement reached in June that resolved a multi-year dispute between the state and the nation.
"By working together and both sides coming to the table in the spirit of collaboration and respect, the state and Seneca Nation of Indians were able to end years of dispute and reach an agreement that is a major victory for all parties involved," Cuomo said. "Today we are delivering a much-needed payment to the City of Niagara Falls, restoring funding that will be a critical help to the local community. This agreement marks the beginning of a new chapter between the Seneca Nation of Indians, the City of Niagara Falls, and New York state, built on trust and mutual respect, and I thank President Snyder for his partnership."
Snyder said, "We have been very successful building a billion-dollar gaming business right here in Western New York, with our Seneca Niagara, Seneca Allegany and Seneca Buffalo Creek facilities. In the process, we have created thousands of jobs for Senecas and non-Senecas alike, and have become an important business partner for several local companies, thereby supporting thousands of additional jobs in the local economy. On behalf of the Seneca Nation, we appreciate the governor's continued commitment to the economic revitalization of Western New York, and recognizing the Seneca Nation's gaming enterprises as an important component for continuation of our region's growth and transformation."
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said, "For years, our friends, New York state and the Seneca Nation of Indians, have been at odds over casino gaming revenues. Thankfully Gov. Cuomo is no stranger to the issues facing communities in Western New York, and he has worked to ensure an amicable resolution to this longstanding conflict. I am very appreciative of the governor's involvement in helping to bring about an end to the years of disagreement, and look forward to working with him and the Seneca Nation to strengthen this new partnership."
Buffalo Niagara Partnership President and CEO Dottie Gallagher-Cohen said, "On behalf of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, I commend Gov. Cuomo for working to bring the longstanding dispute between the Seneca Nation of Indians and the state of New York to a resolution. The millions of dollars in gaming revenue that is being provided to our region is an important turning point. When casino gaming was approved for our region, a commitment was made that the funds in Buffalo and Niagara Falls would be used in part to promote tourism to drive additional visitation to our region. Thanks to Gov. Cuomo, those promises can now be realized. The governor has shown he believes in the future of Western New York, and resolving this dispute certainly helps to move our local economy forward."
As part of the agreement reached in June, the state of New York recognized and reconfirmed the exclusivity of Seneca casino operations in the Western New York region, and the Seneca Nation agreed to resume payments and to make pro-rated repayments for past amounts that were in dispute.
Under the agreement, the local governments in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and the Salamanca area will receive their full 25 percent share of local impact payments, a total of $140 million. Yesterday, the governor traveled to Western New York to present checks to the local governments receiving funds under the agreement: Buffalo will receive $15.5 million, Niagara Falls will receive $89 million, and the Salamanca area will receive $34.5 million.
As part of the agreement, New York state and the Seneca Nation will equally split 75 percent of $560 million in past payments from Seneca casino operations in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Salamanca. The total to New York state and local governments from these and other regulatory payments is $408 million. The Seneca Nation will retain $209 million and resume its ongoing payments from casino operations to the state, totaling about $135 million annually.
As part of the agreement, the Upstate NY Gaming Economic Development Act, signed Tuesday by the governor, included the exclusion of the Western New York zone from the bidding for any commercial gaming legislation. The state will enforce the Western New York exclusivity zone for casino gaming, and a new dispute resolution process will be put in place to deal amicably with future disagreements. The Seneca Nation recognizes the right of the existing video lottery facilities at racetracks in Western New York to continue to operate. The State Gaming Commission will take steps to enforce exclusivity rules in the marketing and operation of those facilities.