Senecas Apparently Unmoved By Cuomo's New Casino Threat
By Tony Farina
There’s little evidence at this point that the Seneca Nation is caving in to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s threats to put a non-Indian casino in Niagara Falls unless there is an agreement soon in the closed-door arbitration process over exclusivity rights under the 2002 gaming compact.
In fact, the Seneca president reportedly told Cuomo to “do it, then,” when the governor issued his latest warning in face-to-face talks in the arbitration process that so far has produced no agreement to settle the dispute and no sign that an agreement is imminent.
Cuomo is obviously becoming frustrated and signaled his impatience last week at a meeting with editors and reporters of the Buffalo News, saying he’s “very serious” about putting a new casino in Niagara Falls, claiming his words are helping to put pressure on the Senecas to reach an agreement.
The Senecas are continuing to observe the court-ordered gag order on the arbitration talks, but John Kane, a well-known Native activist, radio broadcaster and frequent guest on WGRZ-TV’S “ 2 Sides” political talk show, is willing to comment on Cuomo’s threats to put a second casino in Niagara Falls to compete with tax-free Indian casino.
According to Kane, Seneca President Barry Snyder reportedly responded to the governor’s new casino threat by telling Cuomo, “go do it, then,” governor. If that information is accurate, it looks like the governor still has his work cut out for him to settle the dispute that so far has cost the state nearly $600 million in revenue sharing under the compact from the three Western New York Seneca casinos. If Cuomo’s threats are bringing the two sides closer to an agreement on settling the dispute, as the governor says, there’s no sign of it from the Seneca camp.
The most damaged city in the long-running dispute is Niagara Falls, one of the three host cities in Western New York under the compact. The others are Buffalo and Salamanca. For Niagara Falls, the gaming battle has cost the city more than $60 million in casino money that has not come in over the last three years as the Seneca Nation withheld payments to the state in protest over the state’s operation of non-Indian gaming within its exclusivity zone. alamanca has also been hard hit but will receive a $5 million no-interest loan under the final state budget to help deal with its casino shortfall.
Kane, the host of Let’s Talk Native on WWKB 1520 radio (Sundays, 9 p.m.), says Cuomo’s talk of a second casino in the Falls is not really much of a threat because it would be very difficult to lure a Vegas-style casino which would have to pay taxes and keep shareholders happy while competing against the tax-free Seneca casino.
“Who would put $300 to $500 million to build a casino in that environment,” said Kane. “And how much will the state have to give away to get a gaming operator to come into Niagara Falls. I guarantee the state will not see enough revenue for some time that will put the project in the black.”
Kane is strongly critical of Niagara Falls political leaders for not trying to push harder on the state to get a settlement. And it is his view that leaders like Mayor Paul Dyster and State Sen. George Maziarz should be reaching out to the Seneca Nation directly to possibly strike some kind deal on bringing in casino revenue to the city even as the dispute with the state continues. In other words, according the Kane, the political establishment should be leaving no stone unturned to try and stop the bleeding from the missing slot revenue, and so far they haven’t been up to the task.
It should be noted, the Senecas would have a lot of extra revenue-sharing dollars that it would keep (25 percent) to compete with a non-Indian casino in Niagara Falls, enough money to fatten up prize money and make other improvements that would make it very difficult for commercial competition to match. It would be a monumental task to compete with the tax-free casino already established in Niagara Falls, and maybe that’s why Barry Snyder is apparently unmoved by Cuomo’s threat of a new casino in the arbitration process.
It looks like the next move is the governor’s.
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