NIAGARA FALLS – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s suggestion Thursday that there would be no new casinos in Western New York was seen by Mayor Paul A. Dyster as a sign of a more cordial relationship between the state and Seneca Nation of Indians.
He also believes it opens a new door for a possible resolution to the gambling dispute that has left the city without more than $60 million in expected slot revenues from the Seneca Niagara Casino.
“This opens a potential avenue for resolution of the casino revenues dispute that didn’t exist before,” Dyster said Friday. “The tone has improved, but there is also a path forward here.”
Cuomo said the state would “honor legal agreements that are in good standing” as it decides where to place up to three new upstate casinos.
“We’re not going to violate any contracts that are in good standing, so you’d have to look at the contract,” Cuomo said Thursday. “If it says there’s an exclusivity geographically, then we’re not going to violate any contract that’s in good standing.”
Dyster said it was an acknowledgement that the state does indeed realize the importance of the 2002 agreement between the state and Senecas, which allowed casinos in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Salamanca.
“I think that’s got to be viewed as very positive and reassuring to those people on the Seneca side who are looking to see the dispute resolved in a serious way,” he said.
He pointed out that the Senecas also responded to the governor’s clarification in a more conciliatory tone than was common at the end of former President Robert Odawi Porter’s administration.
“On behalf of the Seneca Nation, we appreciate the governor’s continued commitment to the economic revitalization of Western New York and recognizing the Seneca Nation’s gaming enterprises as an important component for continuing the region’s growth and transformation,” Seneca President Barry Snyder Sr. said in a statement.
But Dyster said it also puts the onus on the Senecas to pay the state the slot machine revenues withheld to prevent another casino from being built in the region.
The Senecas have withheld the payments because they feel the state violated the exclusivity of their 2002 agreement by allowing racetrack casinos.
“His clarification … puts the ball in the Senecas’ court to come into ‘good standing’ by paying the state what is owed,” Dyster said. “By clarifying that coming into ‘good standing’ could impact where casinos will be located in the future, the governor has put the Senecas on notice that their own actions will determine the long-term future of the Compact.”
Dyster said he would encourage both sides to get together as soon as possible to discuss specifics.