By CRAIG FREILICH
AKWESASNE -- Resolution of a three-year dispute between the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and New York State over gambling revenue and casino competition has been announced.
Under the agreement, the state will maintain the eight-county Saint Regis Mohawk casiino exclusivity zone, and the tribe will pay $30 million the state says it owes under previous agreements plus 25 percent of future gambling revenues to the state.
Chair of the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators Jonathan Putney (D-Waddington) gave Gov. Andrew Cuomo credit for sticking with the issue through to resolution.
“This is what can happen when Gov. Cuomo attends to an issue,” Putney said.
“We appreciate all he’s done to look out for the residents of St. Lawrence County. He has the ability to bring all parties together so important issues can be worked on.”
The county chairman said the infusion of funds will be used “to maintain services and provide stability to property taxpayers in the county.”
Putney said more work will be needed “to see what common ground can be found on other outstanding issues,” mainly land claim negotiations.
The agreement also initiates discussions between the state, the tribe, and local governments to resolve unrelated land claim disputes, according to the announcement today from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.
“We’ve waited many years for a governor who was willing to sit down with all the parties to the land claim to come to a negotiated settlement,” said Chief Ron LaFrance, Jr. of Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe. “Governor Cuomo has accomplished much in the short time we’ve been meeting directly with him. He has given us assurances that our outstanding issues will be dealt with fairly,” LaFrance said.
“By working together and finding common ground, the State and Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe have reached a fair and reasonable agreement that will grant the Tribe exclusive gaming (gambling) rights in the North Country, and provide the state and local governments with their share of revenues from the casino,” Cuomo said in his announcement. “I commend the collaborative spirit in which all parties came together to forge this agreement.”
The agreement was signed today by representatives of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, local government officials, and the governor.
According to the announcement from the governor’s office, under the agreement:
• the tribe will make an immediate payment of roughly $30 million from the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino New York State to resolve past revenue sharing payments
• of the $30 million, 25 percent ($7.5 million) will be divided between St. Lawrence and Franklin counties, providing $3.75 million to each county, which includes the payments to the affected towns in each county
• the tribe has agreed to resume making regular revenue sharing payments according to the schedule in the compact, amounting to 25 percent of net gambling revenue. The state will divide 25 percent of its share between St. Lawrence and Franklin counties
• the state will exclude from casino siting legislation the eight county Mohawk exclusion zone in the North Country (Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, and Warren counties)
• the governor will convene discussions among the state, the tribe, and St. Lawrence and Franklin counties to resolve unrelated disputes involving land claims and New York Power Authority issues.
The remaining revenue share will be held in escrow pending resolution of these outstanding issues, the governor’s announcement said.