Satisfactory ending to casino cash standoff

Niagara Gazette
Satisfactory ending to casino cash standoff

You can never be too sure when it comes to news of the Seneca Nation and the payment of shared slot revenues to New York state but it appears the check has finally cleared.

During an emergency meeting on Monday, the Seneca Nation Council voted to direct transfer $564,842,625.20 to cover the amount of shared slot revenues due to New York for the period of Jan. 1, 2017 to Dec. 31, 2021. The funds had been held in a restricted escrow account while the state and the nation battled in court and elsewhere over the terms of the gaming compact.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said the full amount has been received by the state. It's very good news for the many communities and area organizations that will share in the local host funds.

It’s been a longtime coming and we’re more than happy to see it finally resolved, even if it did require a move by outside lawyers for the state to freeze and restrict access to the bank accounts of the Seneca Nation and its gaming corporation. The legal maneuver had the effect of blocking the nation and gaming corporation for transacting any business.

Heavy handed but the Seneca Nation had declared the stalemate over and payments would resume in January. Two months later the state was demanding two casino cash payments, totaling $540 million, be made by March 16.

This needed to come to an end, particularly with the current compact expiring at the end of the next year. How could negotiations over a new gaming compact commence with failed payments hanging over everyone’s heads?

This week’s news even came with an unexpected twist — Hochul announced that the slots revenue will help pay for the construction of the new football stadium for the Buffalo Bills.

“These funds were generated in Western New York, and I am directing the state’s share, which is more than $418 million, to the new Buffalo Bills stadium. This will ensure the Bills remain in New York state and support 10,000 construction jobs,” the governor said in a release.

The state is set to put down $600 million toward the $1.4 billion cost of the new Orchard Park stadium. Erie County will pay another $250 million toward the project.

All totaled, it’s one of the largest public subsidies ever given to a new NFL stadium — a great deal for the billionaire owners of the Bills. While we may not like it, there’s little political will to challenge Hochul on the plan.

On the bright side, it does keep the team in Western New York for the next few decades.

While Seneca Nation President Matthew Pagels was livid about Hochul's plan to tie slot payments to the new stadium, the move makes a lot of sense to us. Gambling revenue to offset the high cost of building a stadium. We know, they'll still be plenty of our taxes going toward the project, but this definitely lessens the blow.

And yes, we agree $400 million could be put to much better use across the state — but would it have been put to better use? That seems like the bigger gamble.