Pa­tience urged on casino money from Senecas

Lo­cal­i­ties told not to count on rev­enue from ar­bi­tra­tion ar­riv­ing very soon

The Buffalo News - - FRONT PAGE - By Tom Pre­cious NEWS AL­BANY BUREAU CHIEF

AL­BANY – Since ar­bi­tra­tors in Jan­uary de­clared the Seneca Na­tion wrongly with­held $100 mil­lion in an­nual casino rev­enue shar­ing pay­ments, some Western New York lo­cal­i­ties have been plan­ning how to spend the com­ing money.

Top of­fi­cials in Buf­falo, for in­stance, are going so far as to plan pos­si­ble pay raises for elected of­fi­cials in the city thanks to the res­tarted pay­ments.

The check is not in the mail, though.

And the new, 2019 state bud­get ap­proved Mon­day by the Leg­is­la­ture makes no men­tion of the dis­puted Seneca casino pay­ments com­ing be­fore next March 31.

Assem­bly­man An­gelo Morinello, a Niagara Falls Repub­li­can, has a sim­ple mes­sage to lo­cal­i­ties and schools – from Niagara Falls to Buf­falo to Sala­manca – bank­ing on the Seneca money: Be pa­tient.

“They should be cau­tious in pro­ceed­ing” and start their bud­get “based upon re­li­able in­come with­out the Seneca money,” the law­maker said.

“They need to con­sider the Seneca money as a po­ten­tial lot­tery win, some kind of bonus,” added Morinello, com­par­ing the sit­u­a­tion to a fam­ily that can’t rely on a lot­tery win to bal­ance “daily, house­hold ex­penses.”

State of­fi­cials, how­ever, are THE UP­SHOT con­fi­dent the is­sue is going to be re­solved soon. They be­lieve that, by the terms of the com­pact and the ar­bi­tra­tion rules it­self, there is lit­tle room for the Senecas not to turn over the level of fund­ing that will be con­tained in what is ex­pected to be a soon-to-be-re­leased fi­nal or­der by a three-per­son ar­bi­tra­tion panel. That group be­gan work last year to end the stale­mate.

The Jan­uary ar­bi­tra­tion rul­ing, by a 2-1 vote, has been de­clared bind­ing, as en­vi­sioned by the terms of a com­pact be­tween the state and the Seneca Na­tion going back to the days of for­mer Gov. George Pataki in 2002.

But the Jan­uary ac­tion by the panel was merely an opinion, though an im­por­tant one at that. The panel has yet to is­sue a fi­nal de­ci­sion in the mat­ter. Such a doc­u­ment is ex­pected to in­clude a pre­cise num­ber it be­lieves is owed by the Senecas to New York State and whether, for in­stance, there might be a struc­tured pay­ment plan to re­solve the fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tion.

But some Seneca mem­bers, ac­cord­ing to sources, are less will­ing to pay New York the dis­puted money, even if or­dered to do so by the ar­bi­tra­tion panel. The Senecas, as well as the one dis­sent­ing ar­bi­tra­tor who was ap­pointed to the panel by the Seneca Na­tion, have been sharply criti

Dis­pute on Page A10

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