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Dyster Praises Seneca Deal, but Leaves WBEN discussion with Native Commentator

(WBEN)  The Issue of  Indian casino gaming and relations with the Seneca Nation of Indians boiled over on Buffalo's Early News Friday morning, when Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster left a WBEN discussion on the agreement that gives his city $89 million of money from the Senecas.

The nation had been holding the money in escrow, protesting the state promotion of racetrack based casinos, in territory that they said should be exclusively there's for gaming. The Senecas said the placement of video lottery terminals inside three non-Indian racetracks, which then marketed themselves as casinos, violated a clause in the contract guaranteeing the Senecas exclusive rights to operate casinos in the region.  The agreement pays that money back to cities like Niagara Falls.

"  It's a great relief to everyone here in Niagara Falls," says Falls Mayor Paul Dyster,  who joined native American commentator John Kane for a discussion of the settlement.at the WBEN studios Friday morning.

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster Accuses WBEN of Ambush, Leaves Interview on Seneca Nation Agreement


But after Kane, host of WWKB's "Let's Talk Native," (pictured above) said that Albany violated the casino contract and that both Gov. Cuomo and Dyster owed the Senecas an apology-- Dyster grew agitated and ultimately left.

"This must be the one guy that is unhappy with what happened here. It's outrageous," Dyster said

"You don't think it's outrageous," Kane countered.

"Blessed are the peacemakers. Let it go. Let it go,"
Dyster said, leaving the room.

Visibly shaken, Dyster off air accused WBEN of ambush saying he felt as if he was placed in a moustrap. He asked why Kane was a participant, rather than other "real" Seneca Nation representatives.  Kane, a Mohawk who lives on the Seneca's Cattaraugus territory,  is a regular commentator on Native issues.

RELATED STORY: Seneca Nation & NYS Reach Casino Deal


  Tim's Take: Commentary From WBEN Operations Manager Tim Wenger.....

"If you're charged with being the elected leader of a city I think you should be comfortable enough with your beliefs, thoughts and positions to hear from someone who may disagree and have an adult conversation about those differences.  


From Governor Cuomo's Office:

" Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced an agreement between New York State and the Seneca Nation of Indians that resolves a multi-year dispute between the State and the Nation.

With today’s agreement, the State of New York recognizes and reconfirms the exclusivity of Seneca casino operations in the Western New York region, and the Seneca Nation agrees to resume payments and to make pro-rated repayments for past amounts that were in dispute.

Under the agreement, the local governments in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and the Salamanca area will receive their full 25% share of local impact payments, a total of $140 million. Buffalo will receive $15.5 million, Niagara Falls will receive $89 million, and the Salamanca area will receive $34.5 million. New York State and the Seneca Nation will equally split 75% of $560 million in past payments from Seneca casino operations in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Salamanca.

The total to New York State and local governments from these and other regulatory payments is $408 million. The Seneca Nation will retain $209 million and resume their on-going payments from casino operations to the State totaling about $135 million annually. The Governor will support the exclusion of the Western New York Zone from the bidding for any commercial gaming legislation. The State will enforce the Western New York exclusivity zone for casino gaming, and a new dispute resolution process will be put in place to deal amicably with future disagreements. The Seneca recognize the right of the existing video lottery facilities at racetracks in Western New York to continue to operate and the State Gaming Commission will take steps to enforce exclusivity rules in the marketing and operation of those facilities.

"This agreement is a win-win-win; a win for the local governments of Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and Salamanca, a win for the Seneca Nation whose exclusivity will be honored, and a win for all New Yorkers with hundreds of millions of dollars coming to the State now and for the future," Governor Cuomo said. "This agreement marks the beginning of a new chapter between the Seneca Nation of Indians and New York State, built on trust and mutual respect. I commend President Barry Snyder and the leadership of the Nation for their hard work in helping reach this landmark agreement."
Not  Everyone Happy With Casino Deal:

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) While the Senecas and state leaders shook hands on a deal that ended four years of casino revenue disputes, not everyone is smiling about it.  And the issue still evokes

"I think these guys bowed under the pressure," says John Kane, a Native American commentator and host of KB1520's Let's Talk Native.

HEAR MORE WITH KANE, and WBEN's John Zach and Susan Rose

Kane says as shocked as he was to hear Governor Cuomo admit the state violated the compact by opening up racinos, the state wasn't penalized for it.

"Why would the Senecas all of a sudden say the state has a right to operate racinos. If they didn't have the right to operate during the last four years, to the point they withheld $630 million, then negotiate a settlement, how are they going forward," ponders Kane. "if a third of the escrowed money was going to be retained by the Senecas, why wouldn't the percentage be dropped by a third, because the state would continue to operate in violation of the casino compact?" 

Kane suspects a bit of quid pro quo.

"What was the state going to give and what were they going to get for it? What they give is a non-compete zone from Lake Erie to the other side of Rochester. What they get is 25 percent, which is a big percentage, but it wasn't the case for the first ten years," says Kane.

Kane believes the Senecas buckled under the pressure.

"They believed the governor could make their lives miserable going forward," suspects Kane. "I don't think arbitration was going badly for the Senecas, and if you're going to make an argument over the market share lost by racinos, your argument should have been to adjust the payment from the escrow account and the percentage payment going forward." Kane believes the Senecas were advised poorly and weren't aware of just how strong a hand.

Kane says the Senecas may have made this deal thinking it would lead to a better relationship with the state.

"The problem is there isn't a relationship with the state," contends Kane. "We're still in the throes of battles over taxes, tobacco, retail. You have the attorney general suing native manufacturers to try and prevent them from bringing native products to our territory."

Other Reaction:

From Assy. John Ceretto (R- Lewiston)

     “This agreement between the state and the Seneca Nation is great news for Western New York and Niagara Falls. My top concern was that Niagara Falls receive the money that it is rightfully owed. Niagara Falls desperately needs this infusion of money to improve its economy and create jobs. This agreement accomplishes that goal, and I am happy to endorse it. The people of Western New York expect their leaders to get things done, and today, we have delivered results.”

From Sen. Cathy Young (R- Olean)

“It has been a long and difficult haul, but we have reached a positive destination. We are ecstatic with the news that the state and the Nation have reached a positive resolution. It solves our local concerns and makes the city of Salamanca, the school district and Cattaraugus County whole, which is an enormous relief. The Nation and its businesses are economic drivers for our region because they employ so many people and draw so many tourists. Governor Cuomo and the Seneca Nation, especially President Barry Snyder and the Tribal Council, are to be commended for their willingness to come together in the spirit of cooperation. By working together, we will make great strides towards economic growth and a brighter future.”

From Assemblyman Joseph M. Giglio (R,C,I-Gowanda:

“This negotiated deal is important to the Seneca Nation of Indians and to the people of the Southern Tier and of Western New York. Not only will the release of benefits under this agreement greatly impact the City of Salamanca, the Salamanca City School District, and Cattaraugus County, but it also protects and respects the sovereignty and exclusivity rights of the Seneca Nation for many years to come. This amicable solution is the result of sensitive negotiation and hard work, and I’m very pleased with the outcome.”

From the NYS Assoc of Convenience Stores:
Congratulations to Governor Cuomo and the Seneca Indian Nation on the casino agreement they announced today, reaffirming that dialogue and good faith can resolve differences to benefit the greater good.

This settlement means that the gaming expansion bill the New York State Legislature will be asked to approve next week will rightly reflect the Governor's three newly negotiated casino compacts with the Seneca, Mohawk and Oneida Indians.

However, the proposed settlement of cigarette and motor fuel taxation issues with the Oneida Indian Nation – which fails to level the competitive playing field between Indian and non-Indian retailers in Madison and Oneida counties as advertised – has no relevance to the plan to legalize casino gaming in New York State, and thus should be dealt with separately at a later time.

We therefore recommend that the Legislature amend the casino gaming bill to remove ratification of proposed Section V of the Oneida Indian Agreement, titled "Resolution of Tax Disputes," and instead ask Governor Cuomo to modify its terms to achieve the true fairness for all parties that will benefit the greater good.

The New York Association of Convenience Stores is a private, not-for-profit trade organization representing the interests of 8,000 licensed mini-marts and convenience stores across New York State that collect and remit all applicable state and local taxes on the products they sell, and comply with all applicable state and local regulations. Our objections to the Oneida Indian Nation tax settlement are attached.


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