The Seneca Nation has revealed that all its KeyBank bank accounts for both the tribe and Seneca Gaming Corporation are currently frozen due to what it has described as the “aggressive overreach” by the state of New York.
As part of their ongoing legal battle, New York State is expecting the Native American tribe to make the casino revenue payments it owes for the 3 casinos it operates in the Western part of the state – in Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and Salamanca.
Radio talk show host and “Let’s Talk Native” podcast host John Kane, who is a member of the Mohawk Tribe and lives in the Cattaraugus Territory of Seneca, said that the ongoing battle shows the existing imbalance of power. In his opinion, the lawsuit is not a negotiation of good faith, and the state’s legal action against the tribe is an “act of aggression” and “overreach”.
Mr. Kane explained that, all along, the Seneca Nation has simply wanted the US Interior Department to review the actual status of its revenue-sharing agreement. The Native American tribe also claims that the Department of the Interior Affairs had never reviewed the compact between the state of New York and the Seneca Nation, as it related to the 7-year extension.
New Gambling Compact Talks between New York and the Seneca Nation Starts Controversy
The initial casino gaming compact between New York State and the Seneca Nation was inked in 2002. Under the provisions of the agreement, the local Indian tribe was supposed to share one-quarter (25%) of its slot revenues with the state to be distributed to the cities that currently host the tribe’s three casinos – Buffalo, Salamanca, and Niagara Falls.
Seventeen years after the compact was first inked between the state and the Native American tribe, an arbitrator decided that each host city should receive an additional payment worth $100 million. After this decision, the Indian tribe had reportedly started withholding the payments to the state. According to estimates, they are worth approximately $450 million.
Since the beginning of the revenue-sharing agreement, almost $1.4 billion were distributed to the state by the Seneca Nation.
The latest action that New York State started against the tribe in January took a new direction, as the two parties agreed to start new gaming compact negotiations. The announced deal also included a promise by the Seneca Nation to resume the casino revenue-sharing payments it is supposed to make to the state. However, things seem to have changed over the last couple of months.
Mr. Kane revealed that the agreement had faced extreme opposition from some members of the tribe. For example, the group “Mothers of the Seneca Nation” is against the payments that are supposed to be made by the tribe. One of its founding members, Leslie Logan, has shared that New York State’s actions simply do not make sense, since the casino revenues worth $450 million remain in an escrow account.
Regardless of the issues with the banking account, a spokesperson for the Seneca Nation has confirmed that the three aforementioned casinos of the tribe in the state of New York remain operational. According to reports, the Seneca Nation Council held a special session and voted to release the casino payments.