From the Morning Memo:

Leaders of the cash-strapped city of Niagara Falls welcomed the news that an arbitration panel had ruled in favor of the state in a long-running dispute with the Seneca Nation of Indians over casino payments.

The Senecas hadn’t paid the state a portion of casino slot machine revenues for the better part of the last year. Among the three cities where the tribal casinos are located, the Falls is supposed to get the largest portion of that funding.

Without it, the city faced a major budget gap this year, and the state had even promised to provide an additional $12 million to cover it. Mayor Paul Dyster said that backup plan does not appear to be needed now, so long as the Nation makes overdue payments in a timely fashion.

The mayor said it was a good day, but cautioned the city has to become less reliant on casino funds with the current deal between the state and the Senecas running out at the end of 2023.

“We’re trying to deliver services and keep taxes down, and that’s a trade-off the administration and city council have to work out year by year in the budget process,” he said.

City Council Member Chris Voccio said by 2020, none of the Seneca money, which has been roughly $20 millionin recent years, should be part of the budget. Rather, he believes it should be invested in infrastructure and economic development – as many leaders argue was its originally intended purpose.

“If you drive down Pine Avenue, where we are now, or you drive up Niagara Street or drive up Main Street, and you look around, it’s hard to imagine that the city, over the last 15 years has received $250 million,” he said.

While it’s unclear at this point exactly how much Niagara Falls will get, the mayor said he’s expecting a lot of the money will move quickly from the coffers. Other stakeholders like Destination Niagara USA, the local tourism agency, are owed a portion of the funds once the city gets them.