HENRIETTA, N.Y. -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo says New York State is no longer playing nice when it comes to a dispute over casino payments with the Seneca Nation of Indians.
"If they do not pay the payments that they're supposed to make under the compact, then the compact is gone and that's where we are now," said Cuomo, D-New York.
After traveling to Rochester from Buffalo, Cuomo reaffirmed his administration will explore the possibility of a new non-Seneca casino in the Niagara Falls region if the Nation does not pay the state a portion of its slot revenues.
"A casino franchise is very valuable as we know," he said. "We have companies that spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the past couple of years, competing for a casino franchise license, so this is a valuable commodity."
The Senecas maintain under a compact signed in 2002, they made their last required payment in March. They said the state is still required to honor the Nation's exclusive casino operation rights across a 16-county region in the Western part of the state until 2023.
"You can't be continuing to make threats and threaten our economic livelihood," said Seneca President Todd Gates. "That's not the way you do business."
The stalemate doesn't appear to be heading to a resolution anytime soon. Gates said the governor has repeatedly failed to meet with him face-to-face, including a freshly canceled meeting.
"Let the Erie County District Attorney finish his investigation," Cuomo said. "We'll see where it turns out but it would be inappropriate for me to meet with them at this time."
Spectrum News first reported here about allegations the Seneca Gaming Authority eavesdropped on state gaming officials last year at the Seneca Casino in Buffalo.
"At the end of the day, it's being used as a weak and unfortunate shield from getting down and doing the tough work of negotiating with the Seneca Nation," said Dennis Vacco, Seneca Nation attorney.
Vacco believes the Governor's Office leaked details of the investigation. He said an internal investigation found no eavesdropping, information he shared with the DA's office and the state.
"It's inappropriate. It's wrong. The leak overstated the circumstances," Vacco said.
The Senecas said Cuomo is disregarding the 4,000 people they employ in Western New York but the governor says a new casino could mean even more jobs.
"I have no doubt that we would get companies from around the world to bid on a casino right in Buffalo-Niagara Falls area," the governor said.