Oneidas make first payment of $4M

Published May 6, 2014 at 2:15pm

VERONA — The state received nearly $4 million as its first-ever quarterly share of gaming machine revenues from the Oneida Indian Nation’s casino — and a portion of this money will flow to Oneida County shortly.

Sending 25 percent of the net revenue from Turning Stone Resort Casino slots to Albany was a cornerstone of the broad settlement reached last year by the state, tribe, and Oneida and Madison counties.

The state, in turn, is sharing the money with the two counties. The agreement sought to end a number of tax, trust land and other divisive issues involving the nation and its businesses. The deal marks the first time the Oneidas shared casino revenue with the state —falling in line with other Indian casinos around the state.

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. said the amount covers a little less than a month, March 4 to 31, because the agreement did not take effect until early March following its approval by a federal judge. The county official been a strong supporter of the agreement since it first surfaced nearly a year ago.

The size of the quarterly payments made by the Oneidas to the state are being watched by Picente with an eye on the county’s treasury because Oneida County receives a quarter of what the state gets from the machines.

When the settlement was first announced, it was estimated that the state could at the outset receive about $50 million a year, with a county share of $12.5 million, or 25 percent. Going forward, the more money Turning Stones takes in through its more than 2,000 slot machines, the more money for the state and the county. The revenue-sharing component of the agreement has no expiration date.

Additionally, Oneida County will receive a separate $2.5 million annually from the state for 19 1/4 years. This money, to be paid in quarterly installments too, also comes from the money paid by the Oneidas to New York.

The state received $3,967,753 from the tribe, according to the state Division of Budget. It is anticipated that local share payment will go out later this week, according to spokesman Morris Peters. For Oneida County, that means $1 million from the county’s one-quarter share, plus the additional $625,000 from the $2.5 million allotment.

Immediately after the agreement received the federal court’s approval, the Oneidas earlier sent $11 million to the state as a one-time payment that was transferred to Madison County.

Madison County also receives $3.5 million annually for 19 1/4 years.

The different payments to the counties are in satisfaction of any tax revenues that will not be derived from tax-free tribal land. Under the agreement, the nation is entitled to up to 25,000 acres of federal trust land that is not subject to local and state jurisdiction.

Despite its approval by the two counties, the state Legislature and, most recently, the federal court, criticisms of the agreement continue to be voiced. Foes have spoken at several Oneida County Board of Legislators meetings. The towns of Vernon and Verona have an action in state court seeking to overturn the agreement.

Also, the U.S.Department of Interior’s 2008 approval of 13,000 acres of trust land for the Oneidas continues to be challenged in federal court.

The counties and state are not part of any of these proceedings— as required in the settlement.