SALAMANCA — The Seneca Nation of Indians says that an arbitration panel’s order that the Nation pays $225.5 million in held-back casino revenues to the state amounts to an amendment of the Gaming Compact without federal involvement.
Seneca President Rickey Armstrong Sr. said Friday that once the Nation has “reviewed and discussed this ruling and our legal rights, we will determine a path forward.”
The arbitration panel, which ruled earlier this year the compact did not absolve the Senecas from continuing to make revenue-sharing payments to the state, said earlier this week the Senecas owed the $225.5 million.
“Two of the three arbitration panel members have determined that an obligation exists for the Nation to continue revenue share payments to the state beyond Year 14 of the compact,” Armstrong said in a statement. “The two panel members arrived at this conclusion despite the fact that no language exists in the compact to make such a determination.”
The Seneca president said that in making its final ruling, the panel has “effectively and materially amended the agreed upon terms of the compact. It has done so in complete disregard of federal law that governs the compact and without following the necessary federal procedures for making compact amendments.”
Simply put, Armstrong said, the compact is rooted in federal law and amending the compact requires that proper procedures be followed.
“A majority of the panel members ignored both of these critical issues,” he said.
Since the Senecas began gaming operations in 2002, the Nation has sent more than $1 billion in revenue-share contributions to Albany, with the funds then distributed to municipalities, counties and school districts where Seneca casinos are located.
The city of Salamanca, the Salamanca school district and Cattaraugus County, according to the latest arbitration ruling, are due millions in revenue sharing.
The Senecas noted Friday they have invested more than $1 billion to develop its casino properties in Niagara Falls, Salamanca and Buffalo.
As of April, the Nation’s casino operations employ more than 4,000 workers, making Seneca Gaming Corp. one of the largest private employers in Western New York.