President Donald J. Trump‘s Department of the Interior is issuing approvals for new off-reservation casino projects. Despite an increasingly competitive gaming industry, some Tribes are advancing new projects — but not here in New York State, where Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s hostile posture towards Tribal communities has stalled many economic development projects across Western and Upstate New York.
Governor Cuomo’s father, the late Mario Cuomo, nearly inked a sweeping land claim settlement and casino compact with the Chief Frank Bonamie of the Cayuga Nation of New York. That agreement would have allowed the Cayugas to establish a gaming venue along the I-90 near Seneca Falls, and to begin buying back its ancestral land base at the head of Cayuga Lake.
But the Council rejected the deal, hoping for a more just settlement in the Courts until Ruth Bader Ginsburg‘s shockingly racist and anti-Indian opinion in the Oneida cases, damning the Haudenosaunee peoples’ struggle towards political liberation. That case ended several major land claim lawsuits in Upstate New York, including the Cayuga’s.
Off-reservation casino projects had been halted towards the end of George W. Bush’s Administration. Now that the Trump administration has begun issuing such approvals, some speculate that Cuomo may deal with the Cauygas — largely to weaken the influence of the Seneca Gaming Corporation.
While the State has sold gaming exclusivity to the Senecas for lands in New York State located west of State Route 14, if the State was to accommodate the Cayuga Nation’s purchase of a parcel in downtown Niagara Falls, and to move it into federal trust held by the Department of the Interior, it would become sovereign land over which the State has no regulatory jurisdiction to sell.
While it would take some legal craft, Cuomo could help the Cayugas develop a casino in Niagara Falls without violating the Seneca Nation’s exclusivity agreement with the State — and, even if it does breach the compact, the only impact would be the loss of slot machine revenues, which the State is no longer due anyways.
But violating that clause, with the Cayugas, Tuscaroras, or the Haudenosaunee of Ohsweken, ON, for that matter, wouldn’t have a material impact at this date of the agreement:
Cuomo could, with relative ease, authorize four new Indian-owned casinos in Niagara Falls with Native communities located within a two-hour drive — without violating the Seneca Nation’s exclusivity agreement.