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Ruling Paves Way for Cayuga Casino

Thanks to a U.S. District Court ruling, the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York may soon offer gaming in the Empire State. A judge modified a deal struck by Governor Andrew Cuomo, and removed one county from a 10-county zone of exclusivity for the Oneida Nation. That seems to open it up to the Cayugas.

Oneidas look forward to “shared prosperity”

A U.S. District Court judge has altered an agreement between New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Oneida Indian Nation, removing one county from the Oneidas’ 10-county area of gaming exclusivity.

According to the Finger Lakes Times, Judge Lawrence Kahn ruled on March 2 that the Oneida agreement is valid, but removed Cayuga County from the exclusivity zone. That opens the door for the Cayuga Indian Nation to develop its own casino in the county. The Cayugas previously objected that the settlement between Cuomo and the Oneidas encroached on their sovereign right to offer a gaming facility.

The Cayugas, based in Seneca Falls, wanted the right to offer gaming in both Cayuga and Seneca counties, both of which are within their original reservation area.

The state and the other nine counties in the zone did not object to the removal of Cayuga County from the Oneida zone. Neither did the Oneidas, who just kept their end of the bargain by making an $11 million one-time payment to Madison County. That payment, which settles a longstanding tax dispute, makes official the Oneidas’ pledge to cooperate with the state from now on. It will give 25 percent of its profits from the Turning Stone casino resort to the government in Albany. The state will then divvy up a portion of proceeds among the counties.

Oneida Nation representative Ray Halbritter, in a prepared statement, said the tribe is “excited about a new era of shared prosperity.”

“The Cayuga Nation is extremely gratified by this decision, which essentially provides the Nation with everything it was requesting in this case,’’ said Cayuga spokesman Clint Halftown. “We’re pleased that our rights over our lands were upheld by this ruling.”

Cuomo held a conference call last week to hail the Oneida deal, which he called “a really great step forward … that ends decades of litigation and centuries of dispute.”

The Oneidas retain the exclusive right to gaming facilities in Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, Cortland, Chenango, Otsego, Herkimer and Lewis counties. They also can request that up to 25,000 acres of their land be placed into federal, tax-exempt trust.