It's been ten years since the Seneca Niagara Casino opened in the City of Niagara Falls, but will current arbitration over revenue and proposed state-run casinos threaten its future there? YNN's Meg Rossman has more from elected officials on the current dispute and whether they think a second casino is a possibility.
NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — "What we're waiting for is the long anticipated thaw in the relations between the Seneca Nation on the one hand and the State on the other," Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said.
Until then, projects dating back years will continue to fall to the wayside.
"We don't have money to contribute," he said.
For seven years, the Nation contributed millions in payments to Niagara Falls as part of the compact struck with state officials.
"We fought very hard to make sure the local governments shared in the revenue," State Senator George Maziarz explained.
Those payments stopped in 2009, when the Nation argued the state violated a 14-county exclusivity pact when they introduced ‘racino’ gaming locally. Since then, more than $400 million has been withheld from the state and the city is feeling the effects.
"USA Niagara Development Corporation is carrying the burden for economic development projects downtown," Dyster said.
Officials feel confident the city will get the $60 million it’s owed. But the threat of state-run casinos and the end of their compact in 2016 could play a role in the Seneca's future in the Falls.
"We have such a great, strong core of employees,” Seneca Gaming Corporation CEO Cathy Walker said. “I think that anyone in government would recognize that and want that to prosper."
Governor Cuomo has yet to release specific locations for casinos but did drop hints.
"If the Senecas are in compliance, then it sounds like the state does not propose to locate another casino within the compact area."
A positive development according to Maziarz; another development he’d like to see,
the creation of a fiscal control board to monitor future revenue.
"There's going to be a lot of future revenues, have to be utilized to create jobs."
Though they're not expected until arbitration wraps, mid-year at the latest, something Dyster calls indicative of the issue.
"They're people out there fighting for things they think are very important to the future," he said.
Representatives for Seneca Nation President Barry Snyder say he's unable to comment due to a gag order over current arbitration.