Sunday, June 16, 2013
Liars, Thieves and Ingrates, Welcome to New York!
So New York State Governor, Andrew Cuomo admits that he has been lying since he took office when characterizing the Senecas as refusing to pay what they owe and insisting that it was the Senecas that were not upholding their end of the deal on exclusivity payments to the State. Of course, this admission comes only after he beats the Senecas into submission to accept the three facilities in direct competition with Seneca Gaming and still continue to pay in spite of the clear breach of the exclusivity provision of the State/SNI gaming compact. This "grand bargain" also has the Senecas giving up most of the funds that have been held because of the breach.
On the day after this revelation, Niagara Falls Mayor, Paul Dyster, flat out lies about threats he has made to the Senecas over the last few years and gets pissed at the suggestion that he owes the Seneca People an apology. This after getting promised $89 million from payments held back from the State and a promise for $30 million a year going forward. He called the suggestion "Outrageous" on live radio and denied his half dozen threats to deny fire department protection to the patrons, employees and facilities of the Seneca Niagara Casino.
What many fail or refuse to realize is that the State is entitled to no revenue from Native gaming. They can charge for services, and do. But these facilities are neither beholding to the State nor do they exist because of the State. The State could no more grant or authorize Native gaming than they could for State gaming. New York State law prohibits casinos. Seneca Gaming exists because the Senecas are a sovereign People. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), a federal law, only authorizes the states to be involved in the regulations by calling for a gaming compact to be worked out between the states and Native peoples. The states cannot prohibit gaming nor shut down existing facilities operating on expired compacts.
What states can do is offer something of value to a Native gaming operators in exchange for some consideration, including the possibility of revenue sharing. Among those "somethings of value" are non-compete agreements or exclusivity zones. When NYS saw millions of gaming dollars fleeing the State and country across the the Niagara River gorge into Canada, there was a strong mutual interest in the Senecas doing what the State could not; open casinos in Western New York. The State wanted the flow of WNY dollars into Canada to stop and hoped to pull some of those dollars directly into the State's coffers. The State ultimately wanted 25%, a number unheard of in State-Native gaming agreements. For such a large piece of the action the State offer an exclusivity zone from Lake Erie to East of Rochester. A smaller percentage would be paid to the State in the beginning but would ramp up to 25% as the gaming was developed.
The Senecas protested and ultimately began withholding the payments. Now of the 25% that the State was to get from this exclusivity provision, 25% of that was to come back to the municipalities in the area of the Seneca gaming sites. In total, $630 million dollars have been withheld to date. The three host communities have been denied over $150 million by the State even though the State was still raking in dollars from its own facilities. The City of Niagara Falls has missed out on almost $90 million dollars over the last four years.
The current State Governor and the Mayor of Niagara Falls have called down the Senecas on almost a weekly basis over this dispute, never once acknowledging any validity to the Seneca position. They have threatened to drive them out of business, take more market share and even allow their facility to burn down while they watch.
Is this a good "deal" for the Senecas? If paying $200 million a year to Albany while they still compete, still interfere with Native to Native trade, still tie up Native businesses in frivolous law suits and continue to suggest they are entitled to gaming revenue, for a promise, the likes of which that are never kept, is "good"; then, Yes. Yes, it is a good deal.
Is it a good deal for Western New York? Well, if $200 million per year is sucked out of the region to Albany and only $50 million comes back, that is still a net loss of $150 million to the region. If the Senecas kept that money, it most certainly would be spent in Western New York if not invested in more and diversified economic development. Do we ever really know what happens to money that goes to Albany? Keep in mind that this is not "free" money. It is money from the people of WNY. It is not from international tourists or "high rollers" or investment bankers. It is from the common guy who lives within a 50 mile radius of these facilities that buy into the "dollar and a dream" campaign but justify their losses as entertainment. No, this one is a farther stretch than the previous question. No, its a bad deal for the region but if you are hater of Native people or just don't like the idea of "uppity Injuns", then maybe it's worth it. Especially if you only have to appear gracious at press conferences.