Community members and local allies are canoeing and kayaking down Ohi:yo' from Coudersport to Pittsburgh to call attention to water issues, particularly the threats from oil and gas pipelines and waste. They will then join Chief Arvol Looking Horse's World Peace and Prayer Day gathering at Fort Ancient, OH on the days leading up to the summer solstice. For more information about the Paddle With Peace and Prayer for Water Protection and to follow their progress, check out their Facebook page.
In a society of laws, rules and procedures matter and they apply to everyone, even the government. This includes the gaming compact signed by the Seneca Nation and New York State.
The compact, which went into effect in 2002, is rooted in federal law, namely the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Because IGRA prohibits a state from taxing a tribe in exchange for a compact, New York required a “revenue share agreement” whereby the Seneca Nation agreed to share a portion of slot machine revenues with New York State for 14 years. In exchange, New York State, again in keeping with IGRA, was obligated to provide something of equal value to the Seneca Nation, namely exclusivity and protection from competition.
The state wasted little time in diminishing the value of that exclusivity.
State-operated video lottery terminals were introduced within the nation’s exclusivity area in 2004 and remain to this day. State-regulated (and taxed) commercial casinos followed, including the siting of a casino minutes from the nation’s exclusivity zone – an operation that, as part of its application to the state, expressly aimed to cannibalize the Seneca Nation’s gaming revenues.
All the while, the nation fully honored our compact payment obligation for 14 years. New York State received more than $1 billion from the Seneca Nation while simultaneously profiting from the diminished value of the exclusivity we paid for and which the state was supposed to protect. What does this say about the state’s willingness to honor its agreements? Apparently not much.
This year, an arbitration panel determined that the nation’s payment obligation to New York State continues after Year 14 of the Compact, despite the fact that the compact has absolutely no language to this effect. “Amendment” means what it means, and the panel’s decision amends the compact.
Under IGRA, all compact amendments must be reviewed and approved by the secretary of the interior. The nation, rightfully, requested that the Department of the Interior review the compact amendment. Conversely, New York State seems more than happy to, again, ignore process and obligation at the expense of the Seneca Nation.
Now, New York is considering the legalization of sports wagering. Our compacts would permit the Seneca Nation and other native nations in New York to offer this amenity to our gaming patrons, if passed. Some want the state to ignore that fact and somehow attempt to not include the Seneca casinos in the sports wagering equation. Thankfully, State Sen. Joseph Addabbo took the time to consult and include the native nations on an issue that could impact our gaming operations.
In asking for a federal review of the compact amendment, as required by law, and in considering the addition of sports wagering to our casino offerings, the Seneca Nation is simply trying to hold New York State to the deal that they made. We honored our obligation. The state should do the same.
ALLEGANY TERRITORY, SALAMANCA, N.Y. – Citing the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Seneca Nation is calling on the United States Department of the Interior to review a Compact amendment created by an arbitration panel, in accordance with federal procedure.
“The arbitration panel’s members, instead of interpreting the clear language of the Nation-State Compact, took it upon themselves to effectively and materially amend the agreed upon terms of the Compact, and they did so without regard for federal law and required procedures that govern both the Compact and the amendment process,” said Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong, Sr. “Their ruling creates an obligation on behalf of the Seneca Nation that does not exist in the Compact as it is written, or as was reviewed and deemed approved by the Secretary of Interior in 2002. To allow this amendment to take effect without review by the Department of Interior would undermine the process by which the federal government carries out its trust responsibility to the Seneca Nation, and other sovereign Nations across the country.”
“The arbitration panel gave New York State, without the benefit of a negotiated agreement, or a review by the Department of Interior, more than a billion dollars in additional payments that they did not bargain for,” President Armstrong added. “We are obligated by federal law to submit such an amendment for review by the Department of Interior.”
Pursuant to the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which governs Nation-State Compacts, all amendments to Compacts must be reviewed and approved by the Secretary of Interior before they may be lawfully enforced, so that the Secretary of Interior may make a determination whether the amendment is consistent with the IGRA and with the trust obligations of the United States.
The arbitration panel, despite finding that the Compact contains no provision requiring payments during years 15-21, created additional obligations that were never reviewed or approved by the Department of Interior, thereby amending the Nation-State Compact and triggering the legal requirement to request Secretarial review.
“The Seneca Nation and the Seneca people deserve to have our agreements with other governments honored and protected, despite repeated and ongoing attempts to ignore, violate, and, in this case, blatantly change the agreements we have made. By exercising our right to request that the Department review the amendment, the Nation leadership is fulfilling our obligation to the Seneca people to always defend our sovereignty and the sanctity of our agreements.”
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.
ALLEGANY TERRITORY, SALAMANCA, N.Y. – The Seneca Nation has issued the following statement in response to a final ruling issued by a three-person arbitration panel stating that the Nation’s slot revenue sharing payment obligation continues beyond Year 14 of its gaming Compact:
“As with the opinion issued earlier this year, two of the three arbitration panel members have determined that an obligation exists for the Nation to continue revenue share payments to the State beyond Year 14 of the Compact. The two panel members arrived at this conclusion despite the fact that no language exists in the Compact to make such a determination,” said Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong, Sr.
“In making this final ruling, the panel has effectively and materially amended the agreed upon terms of the Compact. It has done so in complete disregard of federal law that governs the Compact and without following the necessary federal procedures for making Compact amendments.”
“Simply put, the Compact is rooted in federal law and amending the Compact requires that proper procedures be followed. A majority of the panel members ignored both of these critical issues.”
“Once we have reviewed and discussed this ruling and our legal rights, we will determine a path forward.”
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 more than 4,000 workers, making Seneca Gaming Corporation one of the largest private employers in Western New York.