by John Kane
Once again the Western New York media insists on promoting the Governor’s narrative on the now expired revenue sharing agreement. And in doing so continues to suggest that only the Governor can make it alright.
The Governor did not “declare” a breach; he merely charges one. That would be for arbitration to determine, if it ever really occurs and is seen through to the end.
The compact did not grant the Seneca Nation exclusive rights to operate casinos; Seneca sovereignty does that. The “exclusivity” part is what the State offered for revenue sharing. The Seneca casinos were never dependent on the State’s so-called concession. No one else could do casinos in Western New York but Native people.
The Seneca Nation did not declare an end to revenue sharing payments, the compact from 2002 only had payments listed through 2016. It’s what was agreed to, written and remains unchanged to today. The State knew it, Niagara Falls knew it and anyone who ever cared to read the agreement knew it as well. The payments are not “frozen” or suspended or held back; they are over and there is almost nothing the State can offer that will bring any kind of revenue sharing with them back.
The failure of local officials to take the Senecas up on meetings to address any kind of direct payments is a failure of local leadership. The offer is neither a requirement nor necessary for the Senecas to operate. It is genuinely their continued offer and promise to be good neighbors. This offer seems not only rejected but considered too much of a risk to entertain: too scared of Albany perhaps?
If State officials really believed they would be successful in arbitration, the process would have begun by now. The Governor has dragged his feet from the beginning on this issue. He could have sought a revision in the compact language before the compact renewed with the existing language, but he knew that would not be successful so he pretended he didn’t know the language was there or what it meant.
He also could have responded immediately when the Senecas called the State and cities on putting revenue in their 2017 budgets. He dragged his feet on using the compact’s dispute resolution clause and even now is dragging it out by creating a distraction over the location for arbitration; he wants NYC rather than WNY.
Arbitration will not bring revenue sharing back to the State and Western New York should be glad about that. A billion dollars was sucked out of the region over the term of revenue sharing and a billion more would over the next seven years if the Governor had his way. The tens of millions that came back from the State in the old agreement paled by comparison to what the State kept. Losing that revenue was far more impactful to the region than what trickled back.