Review is underway

The Seneca Nation Council has paused the tribe’s planned casino revenue payments to New York State. The council voted on Saturday in favor of a resolution that requires a review and determination from the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) on whether or not these payments are lawful. If the NIGC determines that the payments are, in fact, illegal, the tribe reportedly would not be obligated to make the payments to the state.

Seneca Nation President Matthew Pagels had come to an agreement in January with New York Governor Kathy Hochul over a long-running dispute regarding casino revenue sharing. The tribe was set to make back payments and resume quarterly installments to the state following a five-year dispute.

questioning if the agreement is legal under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act

However, there are people within the tribe who believe that the Seneca Nation President did not have the authorization to enter this agreement. Tribal members voiced their concerns during the meeting on Saturday, questioning if the agreement is legal under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

Opposing the settlement agreement

Mothers of the Nation, a group of Seneca women that are against the settlement agreement, began a petition drive against the agreement earlier in February. The petition was then sent to the US Department of the Interior.

The group believes that there are a lot of unknowns regarding the deal. Commenting on the settlement agreement, Mothers of Seneca Nations member Leslie Logan said: “The Seneca Nation president had not obtained council approval or authorization to proceed with the settlement agreements.”

hopes there will be a quick resolution to the matter

A former Seneca Gaming Authority executive director also challenged the settlement in the Seneca Nation Courts. Seneca Nation President Matthew Pagels has acknowledged the pausing of the payments and hopes there will be a quick resolution to the matter.

Basis of the problem

As part of last month’s agreement, the Senecas were set to pay almost $500m worth of back payments to New York State which date back to the beginning of the dispute in early 2017. These funds have been kept in escrow since then. The Senecas also agreed to resume their quarterly payments to the state. In return for signing the settlement agreement, the Senecas were hoping to negotiate with the state regarding a new gaming compact.

Under the most recent compact, the tribe has to pay 25% of the revenue from its slots and video lottery machines to the state, which comes out to about $100m each year. The state gets most of these funds, with the host city of the casinos getting a portion.

The Seneca operates three casinos, located in Buffalo, Salamanca, and Niagara Falls.

The basis of the dispute was that the Senecas believed that they no longer had to make revenue-sharing payments following the expiration of the compact at the close of 2016. The state did not agree, leading to a lengthy legal process before the signing of the settlement agreement.

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