Judge says Seneca Nation must fork over $255M in withheld casino revenue to New York State

It’s a big casino win for New York State.

A federal judge in Buffalo ruled on Friday that the Seneca Nation needs to follow an arbitration panel’s finding and hand over $255 million in casino revenue payments the tribe has been withholding from the state.

The tribe had been withholding payments to New York since spring 2017, arguing that a 2002 revenue sharing compact between the state and tribe was mum on how revenue would be shared after 2016.

In April, the majority of a three-member arbitration panel found that the tribe should keep paying to the state until at least 2023 and the tribe challenged the ruling.

But a judge from the Western District of New York sided on Friday with the arbitration panel, ruling that its decisions on the matter are legally binding.

The $255 million figure is for unpaid revenue from the time that the tribe stopped paying through December 2018 and the Buffalo News reports that an estimated $100 million owed to the state may have accrued since then.

Under the agreement, the tribe gives the state a 25-percent share of slot machine and video lottery proceeds. In exchange, the tribe was getting exclusive rights for casino gambling in a large swath of Western New York.

“The court confirmed what we’ve said all along: the Seneca Nation needs to fulfill their obligations, make their neighbors and the state whole, and pay what they owe in exchange for their exclusive gaming rights,” Rich Azzopardi, an adviser to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said in a statement issued after the ruling. “It is our hope that they end this charade, stop using the courts to delay, and pay what they owe.”

Neither the Seneca Nation nor its lawyers in the case immediately responded to a request for comment.

The New York Post, Nov. 8, 2019

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