Clock Ticking On Seneca, New York Casino Talks With Nearing Deadline

Written By David Danzis on August 18, 2023
The State of NY and the Seneca Nation of Indians are running out of time for a new gaming compact.

The State of New York and the Seneca Nation of Indians find themselves at a pivotal moment in their efforts to secure a new gaming compact. The negotiations, which have been marked by both contentious disagreements and unexpected developments, hold significant implications for the future of New York casinos, Upstate gaming and tribal relations in the region.

Seneca Nation President, Rickey Armstrong Sr., recently provided an update to the tribe, shedding light on the challenges that have marred the process. Armstrong expressed dissatisfaction with the latest proposals from state negotiators, deeming them “absurd and an insult to the Seneca Nation.”

Negotiations to renew the Nation’s gaming compact have sometimes been contentious. After litigating the matter for several years, the sides just recently came to terms on back-owed gambling proceeds. The tribe ultimately paid the state more than $565 million.

Albany balked at Rochester casino proposal, derailed Seneca deal

Despite setbacks, Armstrong emphasized the Nation’s commitment to reaching a fair and equitable agreement. The governor’s office has expressed a commitment to working toward an agreement that serves the interests of all parties involved.

The tribe currently operates three NY casinos: Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel, Seneca Allegany Casino and Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino. The gaming compact gives the Seneca Nation exclusive rights to offer class III gaming in the state’s Western region.

A tentative deal between the parties was announced in early June. Things took an unexpected turn a few weeks later. The legislative process revealed terminology within the proposed compact that would have permitted a Seneca-owned casino in the city of Rochester.

This revelation drew swift and vehement opposition, particularly from state Assembly members who felt “blindsided” by the news. Additionally, unions representing workers at a nearby casino expressed concerns about the potential impact on their operations.

Hochul has entered the Seneca Nation, NY casino chat

The controversy surrounding the Rochester casino provision led to a delay in the negotiation process, raising questions about the extent of Gov. Kathy Hochul‘s involvement. Hochul had recused herself from the negotiations due to her husband’s employment with Delaware North, a regional gaming company that competes with Seneca casino interests. This recusal left a void in the negotiation process, complicating efforts to move forward.

Following her husband’s resignation from Delaware North, the governor has resumed her executive role in the negotiations.

Recent developments suggest a shifting landscape. Local news WGRZ-2 reports the Rochester casino provision is no longer part of the ongoing compact negotiations. It appears that the pushback against the inclusion of the casino has been influential in its removal from consideration.

Tick tock on the New York casino clock

There is a sense of urgency. The current compact between the Nation and the state is set to expire in less than 120 days. That’s Dec. 9, 2023 to be exact.

There are provisions in place to temporarily extend the existing compact. But the uncertainty surrounding the negotiations raises questions about the potential long-term consequences of failing to reach a new agreement.

Both parties acknowledge the role of the Department of the Interior in the final approval of any compact deal. Without a new agreement in place, the future of gaming and tribal relations in the region remains uncertain.

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David Danzis

David Danzis is a writer for PlayNY. A New Jersey native and honors graduate of Rutgers University, he served as a newspaper reporter for the New Jersey Herald and Press of Atlantic City, earning statewide awards for his coverage of politics, government, education, sports and business. Today, he contributes to New York's growing legal gambling landscape, including online sports betting and potential legalization of NY online casinos. David lives in Mays Landing with his wife and two children. When not on the beach, a golf course, or snowboarding, David enjoys watching his beloved New York sports teams — Yankees, Jets, Rangers and Knicks.

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