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Governor: Seneca offer to pay local casino communities 'unacceptable'

BUFFALO -- An offer by the Seneca Nation of Indians to make casino revenue payments directly to the three local cities that host the nation's casinos is "unacceptable" to Gov. David A. Paterson.

Paterson, speaking to reporters in Niagara Square this afternoon, rebuffed a statement made by tribal leaders Friday in which they said they are willing to pay the local share of slot machine revenues directly to Niagara Falls, Salamanca and Buffalo.

Paterson said the Senecas owe more than $200 million to the state in different types of fees.

"I understand they made a promise to pay the local governments themselves; that's unacceptable to us," Paterson said. "It's not how government works in the State of New York."

The Seneca Tribal Council voted last month to stop making payments to the state under the nation's gaming compact. Seneca leaders have claimed the state has violated the agreement, which gives Senecas exclusive rights to operate Las Vegas-style casinos in Western New York.

"If they would like us to front the money for them, and tell us that they will refund us in the next few weeks, we would consider doing that," Paterson said. "But right now, we're in court because we don't believe that they should have licenses if they're not going to pay the mandated fees."

Listen to his comments on the Senecas in this audio clip:

Paterson made the comments during a stop in Niagara Square this afternoon to tout three new laws designed to encourage "smart growth" development in the state.

Listen to his comments on the "smart growth" legislation in this audio clip:

The governor also criticized Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino during the news conference for failing to speak out on recent incidents in which young gay individuals were targeted by alleged criminal activity. 

Listen to his comments on Paladino in this audio clip:

Paterson said the tone of the gubernatorial race has taken the focus off issues such as "the lack of jobs, the lack of opportunity."

"Even as governor, you're asking me about these issues; I'm not running for anything," Paterson told reporters. "But they are issues that are important to people when they do come up, but they probably are not the issues that are affecting people's day-to-day lives, which is how they will probably determine who they want to vote for."

--Denise Jewell Gee

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