HOGANSBURG — The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe's proposal to send gaming revenues directly to north country communities is illegal, according to the governor.
Gov. David A. Paterson's lawyer, Peter J. Kiernan, sent a letter to the tribe informing them that doing so would violate state finance law and the gaming compact that was signed in 1993. The letter should have been delivered by today, state officials said.
"At its most basic level, the compact is an agreement between us and the tribe," said Morgan W. Hook, spokesman for Mr. Paterson. "We give them exclusive rights and they pay us. If they're not paying us, it's a violation of the compact at its most basic level."
Since the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino opened in 1999, the tribe has been sharing a portion of its revenues with the state, which then redistributes part of that to St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties, as well as the towns of Brasher, Massena, Fort Covington and Bombay. The state has to approve how the money will be used locally, according to state finance law.
Earlier this month, tribal Chief Mark H. Garrow said the state violated the tribe's exclusive right to operate slot machines in a six-county area, though he refused to identify where the alleged slots are located.
The tribe has told Albany officials only that the alleged gaming operation is in Clinton County, but the compact says that violations must be stated explicitly.
"The tribe has not informed the state of a gaming operation in Clinton County that violates the Indian exclusivity granted to the tribe," the letter said. "For whatever reason, the tribe has refused to state publicly where the purported illegal gaming operation is located."
The tribe's exclusivity agreement includes Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties.
None of the three chiefs on the Tribal Council could be reached for comment.
The letter says state officials hope to meet with the tribe to start negotiations within five days of tribal council receiving the letter. Otherwise, the state will seek arbitration. Without an agreement, the gaming compact could be terminated, which would result in the casino's closure. A state official who declined to be identified said that outcome is not likely. Mr. Garrow has vowed that the casino will remain open.
The Seneca Tribe is also trying to cut the state out of its gaming compact agreement over a dispute about video games in bars. The Senecas began discussions with the state last week, according to Mr. Hook.
The Mohawks have said that their move has nothing to do with the Senecas and both tribes deny that this dispute has anything to do with Albany's efforts to collect state taxes on cigarettes sold to non-natives on Indian reservations.