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Seneca Nation Selects Arbitration Panel Representative

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CATTARAUGUS TERRITORY, IRVING, N.Y. – The Seneca Nation has selected a respected Indian Law scholar and former federal official as its designated representative for arbitration proceedings regarding the Nation’s gaming Compact with New York State.

The Nation officially named Kevin Washburn as its designated representative on the three-person arbitration panel. Washburn currently serves as a professor of law at the University of New Mexico Law School, where he previously served as Dean from July 2009-October 2012. He left the University to serve as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the United States Department of Interior, a position he held through December 2015. Throughout his career, Washburn has also served as General Counsel to the National Indian Gaming Commission, and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney.

“Mr. Washburn is a leading authority in the area of Indian Law and policy, and we are confident in his service as a member of the arbitration panel,” said Seneca Nation President Todd Gates. “He brings a deep understanding of the federal framework that governs all Native gaming compacts, compact obligations, and how state governments should interact with Native nations.”

Considered a preeminent scholar in federal Indian Law and Indian Gaming law, Washburn has provided testimony to numerous U.S. Senate and House committees on issues pertinent to Indian Country. In addition, he has taught at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, Harvard Law School, and the University of Minnesota Law School, and has published numerous works related to Indian Law and Indian Gaming.

The Nation’s selection of Washburn follows the completion in March of the Nation’s 14-year revenue share obligation under its gaming Compact. After refusing to meet with President Gates for six months following the Nation’s final obligated payment, New York State instead filed an arbitration demand in September.

According to the language of the Compact, the Nation agreed to pay a percentage of the slot machine revenue generated at its three casinos for a period of 14 years. The payment schedule and payment percentages prescribed in the Compact reads:

Years 1-4
18%, with “Year 1” commencing on the date on which
the first Gaming Facility established pursuant to this
Compact begins operation, and with Payments during
this initial period . . . to be made on an annual basis.
Years 5-7
22%, with payments during this period to be made on a
semi-annual basis.
Years 8-14
25%, with payments during this period to be made on a
quarterly basis.”

In the 14 years since opening Seneca Niagara Casino in 2002, the Seneca Nation sent more than $1.4 billion in payments to Albany, culminating with a final payment of more than $30 million in March.

A three-member arbitration panel will now be empaneled to hear and decide the dispute. As the Nation’s designated arbitration panel member, Washburn will work with New York State’s selected representative to select a third, mutually-agreeable panel member. The panel will then set a schedule for proceedings.

“It’s now been seven months since we fulfilled our Compact payment obligation. Arbitration was the path Governor Cuomo chose over dialogue,” President Gates said. “We are taking the next step. I hope that the State will work to keep the arbitration process moving so that the facts and foundation of the Compact can be presented to the arbitration panel, rather than clouded by political threats, rhetoric, insults and even jokes in the press. Getting the panel members in place is a step toward resolution. The Seneca Nation is ready.”