Governor Kathy Hochul’s comments on plans for New York to allocate co-funding slot machine revenue from the state’s gaming pact with the Seneca Nation that will help pay for the construction of a new stadium in Football for the Buffalo Bills drew a harsh rebuke from Nation leaders.
ALBANY – The public’s share of the cost of building and operating a new stadium for the Buff…
The Seneca Nation Council voted in an emergency meeting Monday night to order the transfer of $564,842,625.20 to cover the amount of shared slot revenue owed to New York for the Jan. 1 period. 2017 to December 31, 2021. The funds had been held in a restricted escrow account while the state and nation fought in court and elsewhere over the terms of the gambling pact that requires these payments.
The action authorizing the payment of shared slot machine revenue follows a ruling by outside attorneys asking the state to freeze and restrict access to the bank accounts of the Seneca Nation and its gaming company. The legal maneuver had the effect of blocking the nation and the gambling company from any commercial transaction.
In response to the release of disputed funds, the state was to lift restrictions on bank accounts.
After the Council of Seneca’s decision was announced, Hochul issued a statement expressing his satisfaction with the resolution of the case.
“Since the beginning of my administration, I have been committed to resolving this dispute and securing funds owed to state and local governments,” Hochul said. “I am pleased to have finally reached a resolution, and all $564 million has been received by New York. I thank President (Matthew) Pagels and the leaders of the nation for delivering on their commitment to the people from New York.
Hochul also said, “These funds were generated in Western New York, and I am directing the state’s share, which is over $418 million, toward the new Buffalo Bills Stadium. This will ensure the Bills stay in New York State and support 10,000 construction jobs.
Pagels responded to the news on Wednesday with a scathing attack on Hochul, including calling the contested casino money a “ransom.”
“The hostile and shameless greed of New York was exposed to the world yesterday,” Pagels said in his statement. “After intentionally and needlessly holding the Seneca people and thousands of Western New Yorkers and their families hostage, by strangling various bank accounts held by the Seneca Nation and our businesses, Governor Hochul could not contain his enthusiasm to brag about having used his Seneca. ransom money for a new stadium.
Pagels also targeted Hochul’s husband, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, William Hochul. He is now general counsel for the Delaware North Corporations.
“I’m sure (the resolution of the gaming dispute) was good news for the governor’s husband, whose company not only operates video lottery terminals (VLTs) in the nation’s supposed gaming exclusive zone Seneca, with the blessing of the state, (and whose) company will also make millions of dollars in concessions inside the state-owned stadium,” Pagels said. “And it’s paid for on the backs of the Seneca Nation. A good deal.
A spokesman for the governor could not immediately be reached to comment on Pagels’ accusations.
In announcing the release of disputed casino revenue-sharing funds, Pagels had also demanded that the state immediately begin negotiations on a new gambling pact. The current contract ends on December 31, 2023.
“We see, and we hope the world sees, the governor’s announcement for what it is — the latest chapter in New York’s long history of mistreatment and profiteering of Indigenous peoples,” Pagels said. “Governor Hochul gleefully tried to strangle Western New York in order to squeeze every drop of blood she could get from the Seneca Nation. It is no surprise to the Seneca Nation that the Governor thinks his actions should be applauded as progress. The new Governor’s Stadium will not be a product of progress. It will be a monument to Albany’s vindictive desire to punish the Seneca people.