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Oneidas, NY reach deal on casino operations

ALBANY -- The Oneida Indians yesterday signed a deal with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's administration and local governments that would guarantee them exclusive territory for their central New York casino in exchange for revenue payments to the state of around $50 million annually.

The broad deal not only helps Cuomo as he seeks to expand casino gambling, it also settles long-standing tax and land claim issues that have cast shadows over the Oneida Indian Nation's relationship with its upstate neighbors.

"To finally come to terms and work through all these years of emotion and years of disappointment was extraordinary," Cuomo said at a state Capitol signing ceremony.

Under the deal, the Oneidas would be assured that no competing casino would be located across a broad swath of land in the middle of the state and the tribe would agree to give to the state 25 percent of the Turning Stone casino's net revenue from slots, expected to be around $50 million annually.

The Oneidas agreed to place no more than 25,000 acres of land into trust, effectively settling the tribe's long-standing land claims. They would charge prices for cigarettes comparable with non-Indian merchants, who say they can't compete with the Oneida's untaxed goods. The tribe said it already does that with gasoline sales.

Local governments would see income from a number of sources. Oneida County, where Turning Stone is located and will drop ongoing litigation against the Oneidas over the tribe's application to put land into trust.

"This is a success not just for the Oneida people, it's a win for central New York and a win for the state," Oneida Nation representative Ray Halbritter said.

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