Oneidas and Cayugas Pass the Peace Pipe Over Casinos in New York State

Posted on: December 17, 2013, 05:30h. 

Last updated on: December 16, 2013, 08:54h.

Oneidas Cuyagas New York State
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo puts his John Hancock on a settlement deal between the state and several Indian casino factions (Image: RoundHouseTalkNews)

Looks like the New York State Indian tribes are smoking the peace pipe; the Oneida Indian Nation has said in court that it will not block a casino project by the rival Cayuga Nation, despite the technicality that it would fall within the geographic parameters of the Oneida’s casino monopoly in the area. With that move, a peaceful settlement to longstanding factional fighting could finally become reality, which would in turn net several New York State counties their share of millions from the Oneida’s existing Turning Stone Casino near Niagara Falls.

Long Battle Finally Ending

It would also see a settlement agreement that was signed last Spring by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo – along with the Oneida Nation and the affected New York counties – finally come to fruition. A decades-long battle over land rights and tax concessions had created bitter battle lines between all involved until the recent settlement; now the Oneidas will get exclusive rights to build casinos in 10 New York counties, including Cayuga County, in exchange for turning over 25 percent of their slot revenues each year to the state coffers.

At issue with that deal – from the Cayuga standpoint – was that within those 10 counties stood Cayuga County, in which 2/3 of the Cayuga Nation Indians reside. The Cayugas understandably felt that the Oneidas should not have had exclusive casino rights or land authority where another tribe is the dominant force and holds the land.

Hoping to forestall another contentious battle, the Oneidas took the initiative to file  the court papers that will “forever waive its rights to enforce” its casino rights in Cayuga County, meaning  that if federal and state sanctions allow the Cayugas to build their own casino on their own land, there will be no further impediments to those projects.

With the latest addendum, the Oneidas can still forbid anyone but the Cayugas from opening a casino project in that 10-county area.

New Yorkers Say Yay

In November, New York State voters gave a thumbs up to a ballot referendum that would approve up to seven new casinos to be built in various parts of the Empire State; something that Governor Cuomo had long wanted and fought for tenaciously. Following that measure approval, plans went into effect for the first four of those projects, which will all be built in upstate New York; the three possible counties under consideration for those are the Southern Tier, the Catskills, and the Capital District. Many industry insiders favor the Catskills, since it already has a tourist base, existing structures and a fairly easy drive to New York City and other areas that would have large population feeds for the new regional casinos.

One developer in Rochester has already proposed a project for Seneca County, which falls on the border of Cayuga County, in the Finger Lakes region of New York State.

As of now, the New York State legislature, the Oneidas and both counties have approved the agreement, and it simply awaits the final green stamp of a federal judge to become law. The Cayugas also want a few days to have their tribal attorneys review the papers and make sure there aren’t any secret clauses hidden in there, but it’s looking like everyone will have a merry Christmas, while visions of slot machines dance in their heads.