Lawsuit Challenging Underpinning Of Ny Casino Deal

09.23.13 | Bob Price

With a vote coming soon on whether to expand casino gambling in New York, two small upstate towns are asking a court to throw out the rules that would govern the rollout and a related deal between the state and the Oneida Indians. The towns of Verona and Vernon in central New York argue in a federal lawsuit for nullification of an agreement this year between the state and the Oneida Indian Nation that would allow the tribe to put up to 25,000 acres of land into trust. While the lawsuit does not seek to disrupt the Nov. 5 statewide referendum, a victory by the towns would throw a monkey wrench into the state's plan to regulate casino expansion. And it would invalidate an agreement the two towns argue would devastate them by taking away their ability to tax and regulate a substantial amount of land within their boundaries. Voters will consider an amendment to the state constitution that would allow Las Vegas-style casinos on non-Indian land. If approved, rules negotiated between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders would initially allow three upstate casinos. Under the Oneida deal, the tribe is assured that no competing casino can be located in a 10-county swath of land in the middle of the state and they agreed to give the state 25 percent of the Turning Stone casino's net revenue from slots, a portion of which would go to Oneida and Madison counties. The Oneidas agreed to place no more than 25,000 acres of land into trust as a way of settling longstanding land claims.