Shared payments must continue
The Seneca Nation of Indians is not happy with a recent federal arbitration panel ruling involving the tribe’s compact with New York State. The panel ruled that the Seneca Nation owes the state $255m (£196m) in casino revenues. Originally, the tribe was paying a 25% share of slot gaming revenues. The tribe stopped making payments in 2017 due to language in the 2002 compact with the state.
The arbitration panel ruled that the Seneca Nation must continue with the shared revenue payments. According to the 2002 compact signed with the state, the tribe is to pay a 25% share of their slot machine revenues to New York.
In 2017, the Seneca Nation stopped making the payments in the belief that the 2002 compact does not specify that they must continue to share slot revenues after the 14th year of the deal. The compact was created to allow the tribe to construct three casinos in the state.
The arbitration panel did not agree with the tribe’s interpretation of the compact. They say that the language of the compact implies that the payments are to continue. The Seneca Nation is now asking the Department of Interior to review the ruling.
Federally recognized tribes in the US have rights under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The Seneca Nation is using this act to seek a second opinion by the Interior.
Details of the compact
In 2002, the Seneca Nation and New York signed a compact that gave the tribe exclusive gambling rights for the western portion of the state. The result of the compact was the creation of the Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Salamanca casinos. These facilities are major contributors to the economy, providing around 4,000 jobs.
The compact required the tribe to share the slot machine revenues and, according to the Seneca Nation, they have already provided over $1bn (£769m) to the state.
Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong Sr. said: “The arbitration panel’s members, instead of interpreting the clear language of the Nation-State Compact, took it upon themselves to effectively and materially amend the agreed-upon terms of the Compact, and they did so without regard for federal law and required procedures that govern both the Compact and the amendment process.”
According to Armstrong, the tribe is exercising its right to request the review by the Department because the tribe’s leadership is fulfilling its obligation to the Seneca people to defend the sovereignty and sanctity of their agreements.