Rochester Casino Falls Through As New York, Seneca Nation Continue Gambling Compact Talks

Written By David Danzis on June 26, 2023
aerial view of rochester new york day

A proposed casino in Rochester has been abandoned following mounting opposition from the local New York community. The project, which aimed to bring a new Seneca Nation-operated gambling parlor to the area, faced significant resistance, ultimately leading to its demise.

The nixed New York casino plan clears the way for the state and the tribe to iron out a new gambling compact. A tentative deal between the two parties had been reached before word of a new Western NY casino got out.

Locals say NIMBY to Western NY casino project

Opposition to the proposed casino was strong and diverse, with local legislators, religious leaders, social justice advocates and operators of existing gaming establishments such as del Lago Resort, Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack and Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel.

Rev. Kirsten John Foy, president and CEO of The Arc of Justice, emphasized the detrimental effects a casino could have on the community.

“Nowhere can you point me to where a casino was dropped in the heart of a community and that community thrives as a result of it.”

About that other thing: That multi-million-dollar per year gambling compact

Meanwhile, the Seneca Nation had been engaged in negotiations with Gov. Kathy Hochul‘s administration for a new 20-year tribal gaming compact. A key aspect of the discussion revolved around the tribe’s payment to the state. According to local media reports, the Seneca Nation agreed to pay 9.5% of gaming revenue for the first year and 19.5% for the remaining 19 years.

However, the compact negotiations did not reach a final agreement before the legislative session ended.

The state Senate recently passed a bill granting the governor’s office the authority to finalize a new gaming compact. However, the proposed compact included plans for a casino in the Greater Rochester area, catching political leaders off guard.

The state Assembly concluded its 2023 legislative session last week but did not vote on the bill that would have allowed the Seneca Nation to proceed with the casino. Assemblymembers Harry Bronson, Sarah Clark, Jennifer Lunsford and DeMond Meeks released a joint statement stating that negotiations were heading in the right direction and acknowledged the negative impact a casino could have on the local community and workforce.

Seneca Nation, NY casinos future

Despite abandoning the casino plans, negotiations regarding the new gaming compact will continue. The current compact is set to expire on Dec. 9.

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.

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.

Still hope for new deal

Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong Sr. expressed disappointment that the work on the compact was not completed before the legislature adjourned. However, he noted that the Assembly leadership had indicated a willingness to reconvene once the Seneca Nation and the state finalize fair terms for a new compact.

State lawmakers affirmed their support for the tribe’s quest for a fair gaming compact, emphasizing the shared goal of identifying an economic opportunity that benefits the state, localities and the Nation.

Hochul has recused herself from the compact negotiations. Her husband works for Delaware North, a hospitality and concessions company with ties to competitors of Seneca-run casinos.

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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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