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ALBANY, N.Y. -- The New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS) released a statement expressing opposition to the proposed casino, land claim and taxation agreement between the Oneida Indian Nation, New York State, and Madison and Oneida Counties. The agreement is too "limited, imprecise and lopsided" to restore a level playing field to non-Indian retailers, according to NYACS.
"Rather than ending unfair competition, it appears to codify permanent price differentials that would enable tribal enterprises to forever underprice tobacco and gas to the detriment of competing non-Indian convenience stores -- with the eternal blessing of the state and the counties," said NYACS President James Calvin.
The agreement, announced in May by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, would grant the Oneida Nation exclusive rights to casino gaming in central New York in exchange for sharing a portion of gaming revenues with the state and local governments. It would also end legal disputes over land claims by setting a cap of approximately 25,000 acres of land that could be under the Nation's sovereignty, and require the Oneida Nation to adhere to minimum pricing standards and charge a sales tax equivalent for cigarette sales to non-Indian customers, the governor's office stated.
"We applaud Gov. Cuomo for making it a priority to address this issue and thank him for consulting us along the way," Calvin stated. "However, we view this settlement as too limited, imprecise and lopsided to be fair to licensed, tax-collecting retailers whose livelihoods have been steadily eroded by cigarette and motor fuel tax avoidance driven by New York State tax policy and facilitated by the Oneida Indian Nation's retail enterprises."
NYACS is urging the state legislature to disapprove the "Resolution of Tax Disputes" portion, Section V, of the proposed agreement until it is modified to achieve the "true fairness and balance that all affected parties deserve."
Gov. Cuomo has asked the legislature to ratify the entire agreement this month as part of a broader casino gambling bill. "Achieving equality has been a major theme of the last two legislative sessions in Albany," Calvin said. "The proposed Oneida Indian tax settlement doesn't [correlate] with that mantra. Under its terms, New York would forever be more open for business for some than for others. That's not parity."
According to NYACS' analysis, the agreement would:
- Allow the Oneida Indian Nation to resume receiving untaxed deliveries of national-brand cigarettes;
- Allow Oneida Indian Nation stores to resume selling underpriced Marlboro, Newport and other national-brand cigarettes;
- Permit the Oneida Indian Nation to import untaxed Indian-made cigarettes from other reservations;
- Permanently grant the Oneida Indian Nation substantial price advantages over non-Indian competitors on cigarettes;
- Bestow upon Oneida Indian Nation enterprises a gross retail profit of $50 a carton for cigarettes (eight times that of most surrounding non-Indian retailers) and up to 45 cents per gallon for gas (three to four times that of most surrounding non-Indian retailers);
- Permit Oneida Indian Nation retail shops to ignore state regulations governing the sale of tobacco and motor fuel that their non-Indian competitors are forced to comply with;
- Allow the Oneida Indian Nation to expand its tobacco and motor fuel retailing activity by opening additional stores that have the same permanent price advantages and immunity from state and local regulation as its existing locations;
- Allow the Oneida Indian Nation to continue selling a wide assortment of other consumer products – beverages, candy, snacks, frozen foods, automotive supplies, etc. – without charging the equivalent of state and local sales taxes; and
- Expose non-Indian retailers in other regions of New York State to these same price disadvantages and regulatory double standards.
The full NYACS analysis is available for download here.