Believe What You Like But Know What You Must

People are free to be consumed with contemplating their existence, their origins, the origins of the universe, supreme beings, controllers of destiny or anything else. But solving "the Great Mystery" is neither a requirement of being Ohnkwe Ohnwe nor does it provide a path to righteousness. I maintain that spirituality does not require faith or the leaps that faith requires but rather awareness. If it helps to believe that "God has a plan" and we just must have faith that "He" knows what "He" is doing, then walk that path. My interest is in taking the mystery out of life by pointing to the obvious that is ignored everyday in the midst of fanatical ideology and the sometimes not too subtle influences of promoting beliefs over knowledge. I have said it before: “beliefs are what you are told, knowledge is what you experience”. I support a culture that prepares us to receive knowledge and to live a life with purpose. I am certainly not suggesting there is only one way to do that.

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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.

When anyone asks how this dispute could rage on for so long, one only has to look at the integrity of these two at the center of the controversy.

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 problem is that as the State was trying to create loopholes around its laws prohibiting State run casinos, someone decided these loopholes could circumvent the Seneca exclusivity provision as well. The bottom line was that NYS believed they could compete directly against Seneca Gaming in the non-compete zone and still squeeze them for exclusivity payments.

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.

Some of this changed last week when in an upset victory for Andrew Cuomo, the Senecas offered to give up over $400 million of what they have held, pocketing a little over $200 million for the State's breach, but agreeing to concede the breach going forward while paying the full 25%, all so the governor would be nicer to them going forward. The host communities of Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca would get the full shot the State had cost them and never look back at what was said or done during the conflict.

While many Seneca people feel betrayed by their elected officials, those same officials have said sure we gave into the State but we got to keep almost a third of our money and if we quietly pay the 25% going forward and ignore the market share loss to the State facilities that operate in breach of our exclusivity provision they won't steal anymore than what they are currently stealing.

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.    


What the Frig said...

When I first saw this story on the news, the governor said he would honor the exclusivity clause in the compact, which would mean that the state would take out the slot machines they currently have in Hamburg, Batavia, and Pembroke. Not taking them out and not using the word casino to market their use, but calling it someting different, is not honoring the casino compact. With these three facilities the state has up and running, they are making three times as much as we are. The Indians are being cheated! The story in the buffalo news said this agreement signed by the Indians and the governor is worth
1 billion dollars to the state, and this is why. Because the state gets to keep their slot machines up and running. Now, I didnt know what was in this new "agreement" but when do they tell the people about their deals. I hope the Seneca council does not agree to this deal. It has been about a week since Pesident Snyder and gov. Komo signed papers, but what has council done. What is the status of the council on this. Staying with the arbtration process is what they should do. The arbitration process would probably make the state get rid of the slot machines, and the Senecas would keep the 600 million, and not have to pay the state "revenue sharing". And your right about revenue sharing, it should never go above 25 percent. If it goes up beyond that, might as well make the state partners and have them run it.(never i hope.) When they first talked about "revenue sharing", I thought the state would be given 8 percent, which is what the then tax rate was for nys. But nope. They got a whole lot more.
Stick with the arbitration

who-ahh who-ahh who-ahhh said...

The arbitration process has been on going for months now. Gawddam it was probably almost over. nys is raking in billions from their racino casinos, plus the billions in taxes they rake in every year and they still got the indians to pay Niagra falls, salamanca, and buffalo. nys has billions and billinos and billions. The Indians shot themselves in the foot.......Again.

whoooo-aahhhhh, whoooo-ahhh, who-ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

what the s#!t said...

When I first saw this story on the news, I thought that the state was going to have to remove all slot machines from those facilities in hamburg, batavia and pembroke. The governor komo said he would honor it. But now you say they get to keep their slot machines, but market it under a different name, or call it something else. Thats not honoring the exclusivity clause. The Seneca council should not agree to this deal. what is the status of the council on this. Its been little over a week now, but have they already voted on this. I hope the arbitration panel of judges hasnt gone home yet. The Senecas would get to keep the 600 million, and not have to pay nys any "revenue sharing". nys makes three times as much as we do with their racino/casino facilities, plus they make billions and bgillions and billions in taxes, they should be helping the ailing cities of niagara falls, salamanca and buffalo. So the state gets to keep their gaming facilities, and we still have to pay out 25 percent to the state. The Indians got cheated big time! And I agree with you on the 25% "revenue sharing". If it goes up any higher than that, they might as well make nys partners and let them run it. (never i hope.) When they first brought up "revenue sharing", I thought they would give the state about an 8% share cause that was the going nys tax rate at the time. Better stop that at 25% and keep it there. Dont go no higher or your getting fleeced. Hope its not to late. STICK WITH THE ARBTRATION PROCESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh For Cryin In Tha Sink said...

The buffalo news said this agreement between the Senecas and the state is worth 1 billion dollars to the state, and this is why. Because the state gets to keep their slot machine in our exclusivity area.
Oh for cryin in tha sink

Anonymous said...

and now for something completely different:
Reading about this: TransCanada Caught Training Police to Treat Anti Keystone XL Activists as Terrorists -

Geezuz Cripes said...

Today is June 28. A television advertisement is marketing the batavia downs as the batavia downs"CASINO". The ink isnt even dry in the agreement between Seneca Nation and nys, and it is already violated. Hold all exclusivity payments. Back to arbitration.

HEY! Anybody there! said...

HEY, anybody there!
Exclusivity agreement of June 13,
2013 already violated!

Today- June 28, 2013