Senecas Vote To Withhold Casino Revenue Payment To the State

An interesting development is occurring in New York state, where an Indian tribe is refusing to pay gambling royalties, due to what they claim are improper actions that have infringed upon their sovereignty.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Seneca Nation tribal leaders voted Monday night to withhold the state’s casino revenue payment saying the the “state has violated terms of the 2001 Gaming Compact which allowed the Nation to establish Class III casinos”.

Asked if this is in direct response to the state’s insistence to collect taxes on cigarettes, Tribal Counselor JC Seneca replied they had been considering this action previously, but say it’s unlikely they would have passed it tonight if the state hadn’t insisted on collecting the tax.

“The action the council took tonight reflects our concern over several activities that seem to mirror our Class III facilities,” said Seneca Nation of Indians Tribal Council Co-Chair and Sponsor of the Resolution, J.C. Seneca. “It has (the State) authorized casino-like operations in Hamburg, Batavia and the Finger Lakes, and late last year the State approved “Moxie Mania.” We sent a letter to the Governor in January to tell him that “Moxie Mania” violates our gaming rights, but we never received a response. We have run out of patience. We are tired of the ongoing process of the State violating more of our treaty rights, our sovereign rights and the gaming compact,” said Seneca.

Earlier Monday, a state judge refused to block the state from taxing reservation cigarette sales to non-Indian customers.

The Seneca Indian Nation is trying to delay the taxation of reservation cigarette sales by challenging the way New York state adopted the regulations it intends to use to collect the levy starting Sept. 1.

A lawyer for the western New York tribe argued in state Supreme Court Monday that state officials circumvented proper procedures by adopting emergency rules outlining how the $4.35 per pack tax would be imposed.

For that reason, the Senecas say, a 2009 court order blocking the state from taxing cigarette sales to non-Indian customers should remain in place. The state argues the new regulations make the order moot and it should be lifted.

Federal Judge Richard Arcara has scheduled a conference for 2:30pm on Tuesday for a hearing on the Seneca’s challenge to the tax.

Under the state budget, the Department of Taxation will start on Wednesday to collect these taxes.

We’re learning more about what natives may be doing to keep the state’s hands off of tax money from cigarette sales on Indian reservations to non-natives.

According to a 2 On Your Side source, a text message is going around to some members of Seneca Nation saying a “rally at the Big Indian Smoke Shop & the thruway bridge on Route 438 may happen Wednesday morning.” J.C. Seneca, a member of the Seneca Nation Tribal Council, confirms a rally is being planned for Wednesday but said nothing has been made official yet. A possible rally may depend on what the courts have to say about collecting these taxes in the next day or so.

“The state police tell us over and over again, there could be violence and death,” New York Governor David Paterson said in a radio interview. “We are hearing quite an uprising and protest to this but I am going to maintain this policy.”

The Senecas are not backing down. Last week, Seneca Council Member J.C. Seneca told us if the state does come in and try and raid stores they will “take it as invasion on our territory and we’ll defend our territories with whatever it takes.”

Seneca Nation President Barry Snyder, Sr. issued this statement following Monday’s ruling:

“We are disappointed State Supreme Court Justice Siwek did not keep the tax impositions injunction in place, however, our legal efforts are far from over. We will be filing an expedited appeal motion with the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court and we remain hopeful Judge Arcara will grant our request a Temporary Restraining Order in the separate Federal case. We will return to federal court tomorrow afternoon to renew our motion for the TRO. It is our intention to block the New York State from ever collecting a penny of tax on sales of tobacco by the Seneca Nation or any other Native American nation under this ill-conceived taxing scheme.”

We’re told the state would collect the tax from wholesalers before the cigarettes even reach the reservations. Seneca says they are hoping they can fight the state in the courts, but he says a number of things are on the table including putting up a toll booth on the New York State Thruway where it crosses nation land.


Additional source, courtesy of ATS user Jaynkeel, where a lively discussion can be found.

This should be interesting.  It is an American tradition to dispute taxes, and because of this I fully support the Seneca Nation.


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