Casino Feud Leaves Cities Struggling On Funds
BUFFALO, NY– The Erie County District Attorney’s office has confirmed they are investigating allegations of eavesdropping by the Seneca Gaming Authority.
In a statement, the DA’s office says they are “investigating allegations made by the New York State Gaming Commission that its employees were eavesdropped on by the Seneca Gaming Authority.”
This comes after Governor Andrew Cuomo, when asked about the gaming compact with the Senecas following a press conference in Rochester, said it would be “inappropriate for me to meet with them at this time” referring to the probe of the Buffalo casino by the Erie Co. District Attorney’s office.
Cuomo also raised the stakes in this ongoing dispute suggesting non-Native American Seneca casinos would work as well.
He also said: “No doubt that we could get companies from around the world to bid on casinos right in Buffalo, Niagara Falls area.”
The Senecas countered at an afternoon press conference that they still have exclusive rights. They say they apply just like their case in the 2009 battle with the state over more proposed gaming, which also cut off funding. It was settled with restored payments in 2013.
Seneca Nation President Todd Gates says: “The compact is enforceable under federal law. Those compacts are being approved by the Interior Department. That’s where we would go to get it settled.”
And in response to the information about the investigation Gates said: “We’ve extended our hand. If the governor wants to play politics on these allegations over an investigation, they knew about it over a year ago. It’s over a year old.”
Meanwhile one Southern Tier lawmaker suggested before and maybe again that just the cities and not the state should get casino cash. State Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, who represents the Salamanca area, says: “One of the things the Seneca Nations leaders told us when this happened was they might prefer to do it that way…to go direct.”
However his counterpart up north in Niagara County says it was never intended for cities like Niagara Falls to plug budgets with their gaming revenue share. State Assemblyman Angelo Morinello says: “This is what I look as a bonus for other purposes…yes…they have relied on it, but if it’s not there, they still will survive.”
Niagara Falls Councilman Andrew Touma says they are trying to wean off casino revenue for their city budget. He says it makes up 15 to 17 percent currently and they hope to cut back more-so without raising taxes.
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster issued this statement: “Anyone who has followed this issue and the hard line taken by the Seneca Nation knows that there was the possibility that the state would take this position. We know that the Governor has the best interests of Niagara Falls and its residents at heart, and we remain confident that when this matter is resolved that those interests will be taken care of. We remain hopeful that a negotiated settlement can be reached and remember that sometimes the darkest hour is just before the dawn.”
And State Senator Robert Ortt says: “My primary concern has been — and remains — a timely resolution to restore critical funding for our schools, hospitals, and law enforcement with a focus on economic development. By canceling the scheduled meeting with the Seneca President and openly floating the idea of placing a new casino in Niagara Falls, the Governor is needlessly escalating this dispute and moving away from helping local stakeholders. Whether it’s a sit down meeting or arbitration, action is long overdue and we need true leadership
— not posturing.”
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