Seneca Nation seeks federal review after losing $256 million arbitration ruling
Monday, April 22, 2019
The Seneca Nation is asking the federal government to review its Class III gaming compact after losing an arbitration ruling that forces the tribe to continue sharing revenues with the state of New York.
Since 2002, the tribe shared more than $1 billion with the state but stopped payments in 2016. The tribe argued that the compact only called for 14 years of such payments.
By a vote of 2-1, an arbitration panel ruled otherwise in January. The decision would require the tribe to make $256 million in back payments and make additional payments as long as the compact is in effect.
The tribe now contends that the decision effectively added an amendment to the original compact by requiring another $1 billion in payments. As such, the agreement must be reviewed again by the federal government, President Rickey Armstrong, Sr. said.
Seneca Media and
Communications Center on YouTube: Seneca Nation
Press Conference 3/23/17 - Re: Gaming Compact
"To allow this amendment to take effect without review by the Department of Interior would undermine the process by which the federal government carries out its trust responsibility to the Seneca Nation, and other sovereign Nations across the country," Armstrong said in a news release.
“The arbitration panel gave New York state, without the benefit of a negotiated agreement, or a review by the Department of Interior, more than a billion dollars in additional payments that they did not bargain for,” Armstrong added. “We are obligated by federal law to submit such an amendment for review by the Department of Interior.”
The Bureau of Indian Affairs allowed the tribe's compact to take effect in 2002 without outright approving or rejecting it. As a result, it is considered to be legal but only to the extent its provisions are "consistent" with the Indian
Gaming Regulatory Act, according a notice published in the Federal Register.
The tribe subsequently reached a memorandum of understanding in 2013 to settle a prior Class III gaming compact dispute that also impacted the revenue sharing arrangement. There is no record of that agreement, which includes a provision stating that the compact can be automatically renewed in 2016, being submitted to the federal government for review.
"In 2013, an amended version of the compact was agreed upon between the Seneca Nation and New York State," the tribally operated senecagamingtruth.com reads. "In 2017, the Seneca Nation fulfilled its obligation and is no longer required to remit payments to New York State."
According to Section of the 2002 compact, an arbitration decision "shall be final." The prevailing party -- in this case, the state -- is allowed to go to court to "enforce the arbitration award," the agreement reads.