The Seneca Nation is responsible for the health, safety, and well-being of our members, residents, and employees and is taking precautions to reduce impact of COVID-19 on our community. By Executive Order, all Seneca Nation sponsored events are canceled until further notice.
ALLEGANY TERRITORY, SALAMANCA, N.Y. – In the ongoing response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic locally, statewide and across the country, the Seneca Nation Council, in consultation with the Seneca Gaming Corporation and Seneca Gaming & Entertainment, has decided to suspend operations at all of the Nation’s gaming facilities, effective at 8 p.m. today. The directive applies to the Nation’s three casino resort properties in Niagara Falls, Salamanca, and Buffalo, as well as the Seneca Gaming & Entertainment operations in Irving, Salamanca, and Cuba.
“The COVID-19 outbreak is an unprecedented public safety situation that requires an unprecedented response,” said Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong, Sr. “Given the number of people who visit and work at our facilities, I believe it is in the best interest to suspend our gaming operations until further notice. We are keeping the health and safety of our workers, our guests and our communities above all else.”
In addition to the temporary suspension of its gaming operations, President Armstrong announced various temporary closures of on-territory facilities and changes to identified services, effective immediately. Essential services, such as the elders’ meal program, health services and emergency services will continue, but may be adjusted to reduce unnecessary contact.
“Our sole focus, as a Nation, is to do everything practicable to ensure the health and safety of every Seneca Nation member to the best of our ability,” said President Armstrong said. “We will do whatever possible and responsible to ensure that our people, particularly our elders, continue to receive the services they need. That is our commitment. The measures going into effect today, while significant, are, in our determination, necessary and appropriate to safeguard the health and welfare of our people and our territories with as little disruption to our people, including our Nation employees, and the quality of life on our territories as we can control.”
“As a unified Seneca community, it is incumbent upon each of us to adjust to the ongoing COVID-19 situation and to do everything we can to keep ourselves, our families and our territories safe while the full public response to this situation plays out,” President Armstrong added. “As we continue to work together, I am confident that the Seneca Nation, our people, and our territories will withstand this unprecedented public health event as strongly and effectively as possible.”
In response to concerns regarding the COVID-19 (Coronavirus), the Seneca Nation is collaborating with Seneca Nation Health Systems and Emergency Management, as well as many other key departments and outside entities to establish protocols and ensure preparedness. The objective is to limit impacts should the virus effect our communities.
As the situation continues to evolve, we will continue to monitor the spread of the coronavirus while coordinating a response that will be implemented for all Seneca Nation properties. Our goal is to mitigate the impact it may have on the community’s overall health. It is important that we all collaborate in preventing the spread of this virus, which includes participation from the community. Informational updates will be provided to the public to increase awareness and preparedness. The health of our people and communities are the priority.
Below is information regarding the virus and how we can help prevent it from affecting our communities.
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus that was first detected in China and has spread to almost 70 locations internationally, including in the United States.
THE KEY TO PREVENTION IS:
• Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds,
• Cover your cough/sneeze with a tissue or disposable paper product instead of the inside area of your elbow, or your hands,
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth,
• Avoid close contact with people (high fives, handshakes, etc..),
• Stay at home when you are sick, and
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. (refer to the CDC website for recommended cleaning products to use)
Symptoms associated with COVID-19 appear 2 to 14 days after exposure. The new strain of Coronavirus resembles the seasonal influenza, with a fever, dry cough with an added shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. If you are exhibiting signs of the virus, it is recommended to call your doctor for an over-the-phone consultation. Do not go to a medical care facility.
It is important to note that facemasks should only be utilized by people who show symptoms of COVID-19, healthcare professionals or in-home caretakers. It is not necessary at this time for the public to wear masks or respirators.
More information will be shared with the public as we develop a thorough response to this issue. There are no known cases in our immediate area, but we stress the importance of being proactive and taking all preventative measures.
For further information and to stay apprised of the most up to date information, please see the following CDC link:
Allegany Territory (Salamanca, NY) – The Seneca Nation of Indians announced today that it has reached an agreement with the New York State Thruway Authority regarding long-needed repairs on the portion of the New York State Thruway that crosses the Nation’s Cattaraugus Territory.
“After multiple requests, the Seneca Nation was finally able to engage the New York State Thruway Authority in direct communication over the last several days regarding the deplorable condition of this stretch of Thruway,” said President Rickey Armstrong, Sr. “That direct communication resulted in a cooperative agreement, so that this work can finally begin.”
Today’s agreement follows a flurry of communication initiated over the past two weeks. The Nation’s Transportation Department sent a request to NYSTA Commissioner Matt Driscoll on September 12 to discuss the needed repairs. A second request was sent on September 17, after which the Nation received and reviewed information from NYSTA regarding its plans for making the repairs. The details of the final agreement were finalized between the two parties between late last week and today.
Thousands of motorists from across New York and beyond travel the approximately three-mile stretch of Thruway located on the Cattaraugus Territory every day. The highway is also an important route for commercial traffic.
“Motorists on our territories, whether Seneca or non-Seneca, New Yorkers or travelers from other areas, deserve the same safety and consideration as those who travel the rest of the New York State Thruway,” President Armstrong said. “New York State, not the Seneca Nation, receives toll revenue from everyone who travels this state roadway across our territory. The Seneca Nation wants to see these repairs completed. The Thruway Authority has indicated an aggressive work schedule for completing the first phase of repairs over the next several weeks. The Nation’s Transportation Department will coordinate with the Thruway Authority to make sure that happens.”
The agreement outlines two phases of work. The initial phase, which is expected to begin within the next few days, involves repairing the most dangerous sections of the Thruway. Phase 2, which should take no longer than ten weeks, involves a more thorough milling and paving project. The Nation and the Thruway Authority are working to complete all of the work before winter, but may have to schedule Phase 2 in the Spring of 2020, depending on weather conditions and the availability of asphalt to complete the project.
In addition to the long-overdue Thruway repairs, the Nation is urging New York State to address other glaring transportation issues related to state roadways on Nation land, including poor road conditions in Salamanca.
“When the State engages the Nation in direct, respectful dialogue, we can make progress on issues of mutual interest, just as we have today and on other past projects,” President Armstrong added. “Now that we have come to an agreement on the Thruway, I hope the State will show the same urgency in prioritizing and addressing the poor condition of other state roadways that impact people’s daily lives. The safety of these roads and the people who travel them deserve the State’s attention, even if the roads don’t generate toll money for the State’s coffers.”
ALLEGANY TERRITORY, SALAMANCA, N.Y. – Citing a regulatory requirement that a State who is a party to a Compact under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), must “certify” an amendment submission to the United States Department of Interior (DOI), the Interior Department has informed the Seneca Nation that, as part of the submission, federal regulations require that New York State certifies that the Governor has the authority to enter into the amendment.
In April, two members of a three-person arbitration panel determined that the Seneca Nation was obligated to continue making revenue sharing payments to New York State after Year 14 of the Nation-State Gaming Compact, despite the complete absence of any language to that effect in the Compact, which went onto effect in 2002. By creating an obligation that did not previously exist, the panel’s ruling effectively amended the agreed upon terms of the Compact. Following federal law under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Nation requested that DOI review the amendment created by the panel’s ruling. The written response received from Interior indicates that, in order to review the amendment, the Department would have to receive a certification from New York State that the Governor had the authority to enter into the amendment.
“While we regret that we must return the proposed Arbitration Award, we look forward to a new submission that includes a complete set of documents in compliance with the requirements of 25 C.F.R. Part 293,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary John Tahsuda stated in his letter to the Seneca Nation.
“This action by the Department of Interior unfortunately fails to resolve the ongoing disagreement between the State of New York and the Seneca Nation. Without federal review, the amendment crafted by the arbitration panel remains unenforceable,” President Rickey L. Armstrong, Sr. said.
“Before notifying the State that our revenue share obligation had ended, we requested and received confirmation, in writing, that the Interior Department concurred with us that the Compact payment obligation ended after 14 years,” President Armstrong continued. “With that confirmation, the Seneca Nation leadership made a final payment to New York State in March 2017, completing our 14-year obligation.”
“Once the arbitration panel finalized its ruling, which amended the Compact, we moved expeditiously to submit our request to the Department of the Interior within a matter of days, in the hope that the Department would make a decision that would resolve this impasse once and for all. Instead, we were notified after seven weeks that the review process never even started.”
Upon receipt of the decision by Interior on Wednesday, the Seneca Nation filed suit in federal court to have the arbitration decision vacated for being inconsistent with federal law, or, in the alternative, staying enforcement until the Secretary of Interior reviews the amendment created by the arbitration decision and finds it consistent with IGRA. The motion filed by the Nation is consistent with the rules governing arbitration proceedings, which were agreed to by the State.
“You cannot simply skip past the fact that the arbitration decision and amendment must concur with federal law, and, right now, the amendment and the law conflict with one another,” President Armstrong said. “The only other alternative to resolve the matter would be for the Nation and the State to come to some agreement and jointly submit it to the Department of Interior for review. The Nation is open to those discussions.”
“Unfortunately, unless the Governor is willing to sit down with the Seneca Nation leadership to negotiate a mutually agreeable resolution that we could submit to the Department of Interior together, I am concerned that this litigation will continue for the foreseeable future, leaving the Seneca Nation and the local governments who benefit tremendously from our gaming operations in legal and financial limbo.”
Since the Seneca Nation began its gaming operations in 2002, the Nation has sent more than $1 Billion in revenue share contributions to Albany. The Seneca Nation has also invested more than $1 Billion to develop its casino properties in Niagara Falls, Salamanca and Buffalo. Today, the Nation’s casino operations employ approximately 4,000 workers, making Seneca Gaming Corporation one of the largest private employers in Western New York.