Secret NY Casino Plan Sinks New York Gambling Compact With Seneca Nation

Written By David Danzis on June 28, 2023
new york governor kathy hochul speaks to reporters

There must be something in the water in Albany water that makes New York governors unable, or unwilling, to coexist with the state’s legal gambling industry.

Less than a month after both sides confirmed a tentative agreement was in place, the Seneca Nation of Indians and the state of New York are going back to the drawing board on a new tribal gambling compact.

According to multiple media reports, the deal fell through once word got out about a previously undisclosed proposal for the Seneca to expand its NY casinos presence with a Rochester-area casino and the state’s apparent lack of transparency.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, who had to recuse herself from direct negotiations with the Seneca Nation due to her husband’s employment with a commercial gaming company, is pointing the finger at state lawmakers for derailing the deal.

Lawmakers feel ‘hoodwinked,’ ‘betrayed’ by secret NY casino

The state Senate approved a bill authorizing the governor to execute a new gaming compact earlier this month. But the Assembly punted on voting after catching wind of a hidden provision that would have allowed the Senecas to operate a fourth gambling establishment in the Western NY region.

Neither Hochul nor the Senecas ever actually produced their tentative agreement for public inspection. 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.

Now, legislators in Hochul’s own party are crying “foul” on the governor’s office for failing to disclose details before the measure was put to a vote. One Democratic state senator told the New York Times she felt “hoodwinked.” Another Democrat who represents Monroe County said she felt “betrayed.”

Gov. Hochul connection to Delaware North still not sitting well

Seneca Nation President Rickey L. Armstrong Sr. put out a statement recently accusing Hochul’s staff of sabotaging the agreement to benefit Delaware North, the company Hochul’s husband works for.

William Hochul is senior vice president and general counsel for Delaware North, which operates more than 2,000 slot machines in NY and is a direct competitor of the Seneca Nation’s casinos.

“Governor Hochul may have recused herself from negotiations, but apparently could not recuse her own staff from the expectation that they prioritize corporate interests, Delaware North first and foremost, over those of a sovereign Native Nation.”

A spokesperson for the governor said those comments were “unfair and untrue,” adding that Hochul’s team “negotiated in good faith for months, advocated strongly with the legislature to pass the bill, and worked around the clock to resolve concerns.”

Stop us if you’ve heard: New York-Seneca history rocky at best

The tribe currently operates three casinos: Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel, Seneca Allegany Casino and Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino. The NY gaming compact gives the Seneca Nation exclusive rights to offer class III gaming in the state’s Western region in exchange for 25% of gambling revenues.

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Nation never really saw eye-to-eye either. The notoriously anti-gambling Cuomo took the tribe to court over unpaid gambling revenue, a fight that began in 2017 and lasted for nearly four years.

The tribe ultimately paid the state more than $565 million.

The current gaming compact between NY and the Nation expires on Dec. 9.

Photo by Hans Pennink / AP Photo
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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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