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New Oneida Indian Nation casino raises questions

Oneida Indian Nation
The exterior of the planned Yellow Brick Road Casino in Chittenango.

Following the state's announcement that three upstate locations would become home to Las Vegas style casinos, the Oneida Indian Nation made its own announcement. They will soon build and open a casino in the Madison County Village of Chittenango. The news has brought up questions regarding last year's agreement between New York state, the Oneida Nation and Madison and Oneida Counties.

Last spring, the four entities came to an agreement that ended years of long-standing disputes between the Oneida Nation and the state and counties. As part of the settlement, the state receives a portion of the Oneida Nation's slot revenues and the state shares some with Oneida and Madison Counties.

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente says he supports the planned new gaming facility because it will bring more revenue to Oneida County through last year's agreement.

"They continue to look at ways to expand and grow the region's economy, in terms of tourism and in terms of gaming, and in terms of jobs in an industry that sees a future in New York state," Picente said.

Picente says the casino investment is only the latest in a series of projects the Oneida Nation has worked on in recent years, but they aren't the only beneficiaries.

"They're first. It's their project, so they have been successful in what they've leveraged in terms of expansion, and so I think they're the big winner," Picente said. "And I think we tend to be right in second place in that regard, because of the revenue agreement that we've struck with them along with the state."

In Madison County, Board of Supervisors Chairman John Becker says his county should be allowed to take advantage of the same benefits as Oneida County. But according to the 2013 agreement, Becker says Madison County gets $3.5 million annually no matter what the nation earns from gambling, and Oneida County gets a percentage of the Nation's slot machine revenues each year. But that deal was reached before plans for the new Chittenango casino, and the Nation's revenues could go up.

"When we negotiated the deal with the state and the nation, there was no talk of any gaming in Madison County, and now there is gaming and Madison County has become a host county," Becker said. "We need to sit down with New York state and look at us getting host county benefits. That is the 25 percent of the 25 percent of the drop on the machines."

Becker says it's unclear what revenue Madison County would get from the casino.

"I mean, if we're host county for gaming, that's what the state has said that any county hosting gaming gets 25 percent of the 25 percent," Becker explained. "So what's fair is fair, and we should be getting it."

Becker says the county has been reaching out to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office to find out their interpretation of how this new casino would change the agreement. He says he hopes to hear back within the next couple weeks.