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Cuomo, Oneida Nation begin payments to counties following 2013 casino settlement

By Eric Reinhardt


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Oneida Indian Nation today initiated the first of “substantial dedicated payments” to Madison and Oneida counties, marking the formal approval of their “milestone” settlement.

That’s how Cuomo’s office described the development in a news release about the payments early this afternoon. The release followed a late-morning conference call with reporters.

“The deal was a win for the Oneida Nation, for the Oneida and Madison Counties, and for the state of New York, and with the court’s sign off today, the money will actually start flowing,” Cuomo said during the conference call.

Cuomo, along with Oneida Indian Nation representative Ray Halbritter, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, and John Becker, chairman of the Oneida County Board of Supervisors, discussed the details in that conference call.

“Madison County is going to receive $11 million. Oneida County will begin to receive its share of … $12.5 million in annual funds next month,” Cuomo said during his remarks.

Cuomo and Halbritter today announced the transfer of $11 million to Madison County to settle tax claims, according to the Cuomo news release.

Madison County will also soon begin benefitting from annual payments of $3.5 million from the state pursuant to the agreement with the Oneida Nation, Cuomo’s office added.

New York beginning next month will also provide Oneida County with annual payments of between $10 million and $12 million from the state’s share of revenue from the Oneida Nation “net win” from slot machines.

Additionally, the state will provide Oneida County with an additional $2.5 million for the next 19 and a quarter years to cover tax claims, according to Cuomo’s office.

U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Kahn last week accepted the New York and Oneida Nation agreement of 2013 that settled decades of dispute and put to rest outstanding land claim, gaming, tobacco taxation, and revenue-sharing issues.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last May 16 announced an agreement between the state and the Oneida Indian Nation that will have the Nation paying the state an estimated $50 million a year in Turning Stone Resort & Casino revenue in return for a guarantee that no other casinos are built in Central New York.

The court’s approval last week represented the “final step” in putting the full agreement into effect, Cuomo’s office said in the news release. The New York State Legislature, Madison County, Oneida County, the U.S. Department of Interior, and the New York State Attorney General had previously ratified the agreement.

“Last year, we said collectively enough is enough. 200 years of conflict is too long. The uncertainty and the acrimony was preventing economic development in Central New York and we couldn’t afford to have it go on any longer,” Cuomo said in the conference call.

The funds will target economic development in Central New York, including job creation in Madison and Oneida counties, the governor added in his spoken remarks.

It’s an agreement that’s not just a piece of paper with just words and a signature, Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation representative, said in his remarks during the call.

“It enshrines the shared vision we all have for the future of the region, as it is a financial agreement about shared revenues, so, economically this is big news,” Halbritter added.

The leaders in both Madison and Oneida counties also shared their thoughts.

The $11 million check is a “much-needed” financial boost for Madison County that “satisfies” the back taxes, but also represents “more than that,” John Becker, chairman of the Madison County Board of Supervisors, said in his remarks during the conference call.

“It’s a signal that with the right leadership, long-standing disputes can be quelled and both sides can come to terms on an agreement that leads us to prosperity for all,” Becker says.

The Oneida Nation represents “value,” … not just to the state of New York but to [the Oneida County region] as the largest employer, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, said in his remarks during the call.

“This revenue [deal] is not just about settling past differences, it’s about working together in a partnership,” Picente said.

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