Seneca Nation Council Statement on Revenue Sharing and Meeting with Governor Cuomo

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August 7, 2017 - The Council of the Seneca Nation is completely united on the Nation's position on revenue sharing with the New York State: It's over!

Unlike the current personnel in the governor's administration and much of the local municipal governments, the Seneca Council is still made up of members who negotiated the Seneca/State Gaming Compact. We know what was agreed to and just what the terms were.

Every member of Seneca Nation Council knows the Revenue Sharing/Exclusivity Provision was a lopsided deal, giving far more to the State than it received in concessions from the State. In retrospect, it is difficult to determine what if anything the Exclusivity Provision actually prohibited the State from doing that State law didn't already prohibit. Yet the Seneca Nation shared over a billion dollars of its gaming revenue with the State even as it was in direct competition for gaming dollars with State run and State licensed gaming.

The Seneca Nation took a stand on this inequity between 2009 and 2013; and while a settlement of that dispute, with the State conceding over $200 million dollars, was reached, it certainly came far from solving the inequity between the value of the 'exclusivity' and the revenue sent to the State. But that settlement came with only two and a half years until the Gaming Compact would renew and the clear provisions for revenue sharing would end. So the Seneca Nation continued to make payments.

The Seneca Nation Council has no doubt or indifference on the terms of the Revenue Sharing Provision of the Gaming Compact. The words so skillfully negotiated by State representatives could not be more clear. The revenue sharing was for 14 years. There is no ambiguity and no hint or suggestion of payments beyond 14 years. The underlying federal statute, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), makes clear that states are entitled to NO gaming revenue and are PROHIBITED from taxing Native gaming. While revenue sharing is permitted, there are standards regulating states to ensure those provisions are not a forced or imposed tax. The fact is that the now expired revenue sharing provision failed to meet that standard and for the Governor to now stand in public stating that the "Senecas must pay and continue to pay" is outrageous.

The Seneca Nation Council needs to make clear that there is no intent by the Seneca Nation to resume the expired revenue sharing agreement or negotiate a new one. Whether the Governor Cuomo and President Gates meet or not, this Council is quite satisfied to put the inequities of the past behind them.

The Seneca Nation Council and Executives have been clear in offering to negotiate with any local municipalities to compensate for any expenses incurred by the Seneca Gaming operations and to discuss other ways the Seneca Nation can continue to be good neighbors to the region through financial support of programs and services. But this offer is NOT for a new revenue sharing agreement with the State. It should be noted that no local officials have taken up the offer.

The Seneca Nation Council is compelled to respond to the continued calls for the Governor to "resolve this dispute" from local and State representatives. As far as this Council is concerned, there is no dispute. The facts are clear. Neither the Governor nor anyone calling for a 'resolution' have cited a single line from IGRA, the Gaming Compact or the Settlement Agreement from 2013 (MOU) that disputes the 14 year term for revenue sharing payments. We are left to interpret these calls for the Governor to meet and resolve their claimed dispute as calls to 'make them pay' rather than any real call to address any factual reading of the compact. These very public calls and the refusal, locally, to acknowledge the terms of the Compact seem to ignore the invitations graciously offered to local representatives and undermine any real prospect respectful dialogue.

The Governor's comments to this point have been offensive and disingenuous, and have lacked any basis for his claim that the "Senecas are wrong." The language of all the relevant documents are clear. There is no special interpretation that Mr. Cuomo can pull out of these documents that will magically make Seneca gaming revenue flow as it has in the past. The local representatives calling on the Governor to 'fix the Seneca problem' seem to be pushing a conflict between the State and the Seneca Nation in the hopes that the Seneca Nation will submit to the State rather than local officials taking up the offer to address expenses associated with municipal services provided to the Seneca enterprises and to explore areas of mutual concern and benefit directly with the Seneca Nation.

The Seneca Nation Council encourages anyone, including local officials and the media to simply review the documents and to see the indisputable facts. Any attempts to politicize this issue is unfortunate and just wrong. For those who plan to vilify Senecas for political gain or place Senecas in the crossfire of partisan bickering, let us remind you that the initial terms of the Compact in 2002 were negotiated with a Republican governor, and renewed in 2016 by the current Democratic governor. And the management of the shared revenue has crossed party lines locally and at the state level.

The Seneca Nation Council is committed to serving the Seneca people and defending their resources. The Council also remains committed to the region and hopes that better judgement can be exercised by the region's public servants even as challenges with interests beyond our region continue to be addressed.