Seneca Nation on Hochul’s decision to leverage compact money

New York State and the Seneca Nation are currently in negotiations on a new gaming pact. The current pact expires in 2023.

“What we are working to do is create a fair deal. Right now it’s very timely. It’s essential. There are only 13 months left on the pact,” Seneca Nation President Matthew Pagels said. Capital tonight.

While Pagels insists the Senecas are “making every effort” to make themselves available for negotiations, he said capital tonight that the Hochul administration was not.

“She doesn’t engage as much,” Pagels said.

Another problem, Pagels says, is that many Senecas are still angry that the governor used the money from the game compact to fund part of the Buffalo Bills stadium deal.

“It will never be forgotten,” he said Capital tonight.

According to Pagels, Governor Hochul’s decision to freeze the Nation’s bank accounts has prevented many casino employees from accessing health care and prescription drugs.

The issue was raised during last week’s gubernatorial debate when Hochul reiterated that some of the money to pay for the Buffalo Bills’ new stadium comes from a “lag” made possible by money owed to the ‘State by Seneca Nation Game Pact.

A bit of history: The pact was an agreement signed between the state and the Senecas in 2002. In it, New York agreed to allow the Senecas to operate three gambling casinos in exchange for a share of the revenue .

The business ran for 14 years. Then, in 2016, the Seneca Nation and the state, under former Governor Andrew Cuomo, disagreed on the terms of the pact (this was after the state amended the constitution to make the games legal casinos). The disagreement ended in an arbitration panel, which ultimately ruled that the money the Seneca owed the state should be kept in an escrow account.

While the Senecas agreed to pay the money to the state, there was some internal opposition, delaying the payment.

It was at this time that Governor Hochul chose to freeze the Nation’s accounts in order to take advantage of what the Nation owed New York: $564 million. Of that money, $418 million would go to the new Buffalo Bills stadium.

At the time, Governor Hochul said, “I thank President Pagels and the leaders of the Nation for fulfilling their commitment to the people of New York.”

The Seneca Nation was not happy with the way the deal ended up. President Pagels said at the time, “The new Governor’s Stadium will not be the product of progress. It will be a monument to Albany’s vindictive desire to punish the people of Seneca.”

During last week’s debate, Republican candidate Lee Zeldin said Hochul “screwed up” the Seneca Nation with the deal, which Seneca Nation President Matthew Pagels agreed with.

“What the governor has done is literally put politics above people,” Pagels told capital tonight. “She held a gun to our heads to make a decision.”

When asked if he had a message for the governor regarding negotiations on a new gaming pact, Pagels asked him to provide a statement saying the pact is “instrumental for Western New York.”

“There are thousands of people, thousands of jobs. Not only the Senecas, but Western New York lives around the three Seneca Nation-owned facilities and we need their commitment,” he said.

According to an email from a spokesperson for the Hochul administration, staff of the Executive Chamber and Gaming Commission have begun negotiations with the Seneca Nation.

“We are confident that the process will continue in a way that will best serve New Yorkers,” Hazel Crampton-Hays wrote.