SALAMANCA – It’s been a battle four years in the making, and with a series of check passings, the southernmost host city for a Seneca Nation of Indians casino has been made whole.
A ceremony Wednesday was one of historic importance, according to State Sen. Catherine M. Young, R-Olean. In her introduction of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, she said it had been 35 years since a sitting governor had visited the second-largest city in Cattaraugus County. The last was Hugh Carey, who, in July 1978, drove a bulldozer in celebration of the completion of the Southern Tier Expressway, then known as Route 17, now Interstate 86.
“This is truly a new day in the City of Salamanca,” Young said. For the better part of the last four years, the Seneca Nation and state representatives have been at an impasse over payments under the 2002 gaming compact.
“We are committed to the compact and to protect the sovereignty of the Seneca Nation,” Barry Snyder, president of the Seneca Nation of Indians, said. “We applaud New York State in making the host cities whole. We have had our share of conflicts and debate, but today is a day we set all of that aside.”
With those words, Snyder handed a symbolic check to Cuomo in the amount of $349.65 million, the amount owed to the state under the compact. Noting the Seneca Nation is the fifth-largest employer in the region, Cuomo said the nation’s proud lineage is not just history but represents the present and future of the region.
The governor acknowledged the challenges host cities have faced over the last four years without the casino revenue they were entitled to. He said Salamanca Mayor Carmen Vecchiarella “has stepped up to the challenge,” and presented him a check for the city’s $34.5 million share of the revenue.
Emblazoned on the check: “A step forward for Salamanca.”
“This deal is truly a lifesaver for our city,” Vecchiarella said. “The city was caught in the middle. As a result, we had to make cuts in education and in youth programs. In all honesty, this may be the single best day in the history of our city.”
Vecchiarella said the two major areas to use the funds would be education and infrastructure.
According the Assemblyman Joseph M. Giglio, R-Gowanda, Salamanca was the only city that had to borrow money from the state as a result of the revenue battle. On three occasions, the city sought loans of $1.5 million to stay afloat.
“It doesn’t get much better than this,” Cuomo said about the day’s three stops in Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca to deliver funds to host cities.