Seneca Niagara Begins $40 Million Casino Beautification, Still No Payments to Cash-Strapped City

Posted on: April 30, 2018, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: May 2, 2018, 01:23h.

The Seneca Nation has announced it will begin work on a $40 million makeover of the Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino in the City of Niagara Falls, as it continues to withhold revenue-share payments to the State of New York and local communities.

Seneca Niagara
The Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino has announced its big revamp, but meanwhile the standoff between the Seneca Nation and the State of New York shows no signs of progress, and the communities that host the tribe’s casinos are bearing the burden. (Image: Seneca Niagara)

The Senecas stopped making payments over a year ago. Under the terms of a 2002 compact, they were expected to contribute around $100 million a year to the state, a sum that was then distributed between Albany, Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Salamanca, in exchange for the tribe’s exclusive right offer casino gaming in those cities.

But the tribe stopped making payments over a year ago. The 2002 agreement expired in 2016, but it was stipulated within that it would roll over for another seven years, provided there were no objections from either party.

‘Defying Law and Logic’

But the Senecas argue that there was no specific clause within the agreement that said revenue-share payments would continue beyond 2016.

The state has said there are “no legitimacy to these claims,” and the tribe’s assertion that it can “unilaterally end paying the state contribution while continuing to enjoy the benefits of the compact has no basis in the compact, law or logic.”

Late last year, New York State declared the Seneca Nation to be in violation of its compact and delivered a demand for legally binding arbitration, which, months later, has yet to get underway.

In the meantime, the Senecas are planning “a flowing, landscaped entry boulevard” to the Niagara Resort & Casino with “extensive landscaping, sculpture features.”

“We have long viewed our Niagara Territory, and this vantage point of Seneca Niagara in particular, as standing at the front door to Niagara Falls,” said Seneca Nation President Todd Gates said in a statement. “As more and more people visit our resort and discover –  and rediscover – the wonders of Niagara, we want to make an immediate impression on them.”

Niagara Falls into Disrepair

But the actual City of Niagara Falls –  a community of around 50,000 people that struggles to compete on an economic level with its more popular Canadian namesake – is scrambling to balance its budget without the money it once relied on as a host community. The city has high crime rates, while around 60 percent of residents receive government assistance.

Mayor Paul Dyster recently announced Niagara Falls was scaling back projects such as road improvements through lack of funds and wouldn’t rule out raising taxes.

Meanwhile, city councilman Chris Voccio told local radio station WBFO this week that while the Senecas landscape their entry boulevard, the council will have to make “some difficult decisions” this budget season.