February 11, 2009, Buffalo News: Paterson "not interested" in talking Catskills casino until Seneca tax issue resolved

Gov. Paterson "not interested" in talking Catskills casino until Seneca tax issue resolved

ALBANY - Gov. David Paterson said today he is "not interested" in moving ahead in talks with Seneca Nation leaders over a new downstate casino until a dispute over collection of cigarette and gasoline taxes is resolved.

The governor's comments to reporters came a day after members of his administration met with several Seneca representatives over the tribe's plans to build a casino in the Catskills resort region. The $160 million project faces a series of hurdles, not the least of which has been the reluctance of the federal government to approve any more off-reservation casino deals.

"I think right now, before we resolve that, is the resolution of the lack of taxes that we're receiving for a number of different items," Paterson said when asked about the casino talks.

Paterson said that while he recognizes the Seneca Nation is a sovereign territory, there exists "unfair competition for New York's commercial entities that are in those places" near the reservations. Non-Indian retailers say they are at a sizeable competitive disadvantage when it comes to going head-to-head with cigarette sales against Indian retailers who do not charge state and local excise and sales taxes.

"I am certainly willing to entertain discussions," Paterson said of casino talks with the Senecas. "But, I'm really not interested in taking motion in a direction until I feel there is equity that we have with a number of the (Indian) nations."

The Senecas are engaged in a deal with Rotate Black Gaming Inc., Mich., to develop a Catskills casino. The facility would be located in Monticello, just 90 minutes from mid-town Manhattan. The Senecas recently took ownership of a 63-acre parcel of land from Black Rock.

Seneca officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

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