Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino

Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino in Salamanca.

The Seneca Nation was dealt another setback Monday in its challenge to an arbitration panel’s ruling that it owes $255 million to New York state in past casino revenue-sharing money.

The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the arbitration panel did not err when it decided the 2002 Seneca Gaming Compact with the state required the Seneca Nation to continue making payments in the years 2014-21.

The decision had been appealed by the Senecas on the basis that the U.S. secretary of the Interior had not reviewed the Senecas’ contention that no contributions were required in the final seven-year period of the compact.

The Senecas paid 25% of its slot machine revenue to the state for an exclusive zone stretching from Western New York to the Finger Lakes. The state then turned around and shared 25% of that revenue with local governments, including the city of Salamanca, the Salamanca Central School District and Cattaraugus County.

A spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the total owed by the Seneca Nation has grown over time to about $435 million, about $150 million of which is owed to local governments. The rest of the award will go mostly toward education, said Robert Mujica, director of the state Division of the Budget.

“This morning the U.S. second circuit court of appeals again affirmed the need for the Seneca Nation to fulfill their obligations and pay what they owe in exchange for those gaming rights,” the governor said in a statement.

“The court’s decision was clear, and after years of delay, multiple appeals and multiple court losses it is high time the Seneca Nation follows the law and pays what they owe, and it is significant funding, especially for the communities involved, as well as the State,” Cuomo said.

A spokesman for Seneca Nation President Matthew Pagels did not reply to messages seeking comment late Monday.

The Seneca Nation has paid $1.4 billion in revenue sharing from its slot machine revenue.

The Seneca Nation filed a petition in U.S. District Court in Buffalo on June 6, 2019 to vacate the arbitration panel’s award.

The 2021-22 state budget includes revenue from the appeals court decision.

A Seneca spokesman last month indicated the Nation was interested in discussing both a settlement of its past debt, but also in opening talks to renew the gaming compact when it expires in 2023.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)

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