Seneca Nation President Barry Snyder is gathering tribal council members to vote on a settlement that could end a more than $600 million dispute with New York state and keep the city of Niagara Falls solvent.
The vote may come as soon as today, he said in a telephone interview. Snyder, who heads the state’s largest Indian tribe, was in Albany yesterday meeting with officials in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration. The Senecas stopped paying the state its 22 percent share of slot-machine revenue in 2009 after nontribal lottery terminals were allowed inside a 10,500-square-mile (27,200-square-kilometer) exclusion zone.
“I’m gathering them all together, making sure we have all the information necessary, and I’ll put it on the table,” Snyder said. “Hopefully, in the near future we’ll have some agreement.”
He declined to provide details on negotiations with the state. Rich Azzopardi, a Cuomo spokesman, declined to comment on any deal.
Cuomo, a 55-year-old Democrat, has already lined up agreements with two New York Indian tribes that run casinos before a legislative vote expected this month on a bill that would bring nontribal Las Vegas-style casinos to upstate New York if voters approve a constitutional amendment in November. Cuomo has said he wants to create at least three casinos as an economic stimulus.
The deals with the Oneidas in central New York and the Mohawks near the Canadian border leave the Senecas as the last holdout. There’s no guarantee that the tribal council will agree to a settlement, with some members holding out for an arbitration panel to rule on the dispute, according to Snyder.
A settlement could bail out Niagara Falls. The city may run out of cash by November, Moody’s Investors Service said in a report last month when it cut the city of 50,000 to one step above junk. The city, a tourist mecca named after the nearby cascade that separates New York and Canada, may get a speculative rating if it doesn’t get any of the $60 million it’s owed as part of the state’s compact with the tribe. The Senecas operate a casino in downtown Niagara Falls.
The city’s distress is reflected in the extra money investors want to buy related debt.
The Niagara Falls Public Water Authority plans to issue about $33 million of tax-exempt bonds today in its first sale since 2005, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The agency is coming to market as investors demand the highest yield in almost a year on some of its securities.
A tax-exempt water authority bond maturing in 2034 traded last week at an average yield of 5.09 percent, the highest since June 25, 2012, Bloomberg data show.
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