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As city waits for casino revenue, Porter rules out direct payments

Seneca Nation of Indians President Robert Odawi Porter says that direct payments from the Indian nation to the municipalities that host its casinos are not a solution to the dispute between the Senecas and the state.

"It's really not an option," Porter said, adding that arbitration will ultimately resolve the dispute that has prevented Niagara Falls from receiving as much as $50 million in slot machine revenues from the casino.

A recent City Council report stated the Seneca Tribal Council blocked the direct payment solution and appeared "not to be in a hurry" to resolve the dispute.

Porter responded that the Seneca Nation wants a solution to the matter.

Without the casino revenues, which have paid for infrastructure improvements and economic development salaries, the city has worked to stave off layoffs amid a cash shortfall of $6 million.

Seneca Council Chairman Richard Nephew added that he was "perplexed" by some facts reported by the city's casino revenue lobbying committee, which includes former Assembly candidate and political operative Gary D. Parenti and Laborers Local 91 business manager Richard Palladino.

"I am puzzled by the misconceptions and misinformation apparent in the Niagara Falls City Council statement," Nephew said, adding that he disputes the City Council majority's assertion that the Seneca Council believes the host communities "should receive no casino revenue."

City Council Chairman Sam Fruscione's casino report also stated that the state wanted the matter to be resolved in 90 days, while the Senecas wanted arbitration to be complete within a year.

Porter said that one year was seen as a maximum time frame.

Porter said the direct-payment option, which was the subject of unpassed legislation and looked to be a solution in November, is no longer feasible because of the required change in the gaming compact.

But State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, said he hasn't necessarily given up on the strategy and continues to prefer the direct payments.

Porter said the state was "callous and irresponsible" in violating the Senecas' exclusivity agreement and said it should find a way to pay the struggling municipalities.

"The interesting question is, 'Why is not the state doing more to help the local governments?' " Porter asked.

Fruscione said the state is considering a $5 million loan to the city for debt payments it makes on its public safety complex.

Arbitration is expected to start within the next week.