With a deadline just over a month away, the chorus of New York lawmakers demanding a conclusion to the ongoing gaming compact negotiations between the Seneca Nation and the state is getting louder.
State Sen. George Borrello, R-57th District, is calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to meet with Seneca Nation of Indians President Ricky Armstrong Sr. as “soon as possible.”
Borrello joins other Western NY lawmakers, such as Assemb. Joseph Giglio, R-148th District, in pushing the state toward a new deal before the current 20-year gaming compact expires on Dec. 9.
In a statement released last month, Borrello noted that “the clock is ticking.”
Seneca, NY casinos major economic driver in Western NY
Borrello, Giglio and others in the region are concerned about the lack of progress on a new compact with the Nation. The Senecas operate three NY casinos in the area — Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel, Seneca Allegany Casino, Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino — which employ thousands of local residents.
In the press release, the state senator said:
“This agreement is essential for the economic well-being of Western New York. The Seneca Nation’s casinos have a $1 billion annual impact on our economy. The livelihoods of tens of thousands of individuals, businesses and families across Western New York depend upon a new compact. The future of those New Yorkers is hanging in the balance.”
The governor has only recently been able to participate in talks with the Seneca Nation. She had been recusing herself because her husband had been employed by Delaware North, a direct competitor of the Seneca’s gaming operations. Hochul’s husband resigned over the summer, allowing the governor to wade into the fray.
Borrello said with Hochul’s need for recusal gone, “there is no reason for (the governor) to delay meeting with President Armstrong.”
“Time is running out. We need to get this done.”
Just recently, Giglio raised similar concerns. Giglio was miffed that, with (at the time) less than three months until the deadline, no one was announcing any updates. He told a local news outlet:
“That’s what makes me a little nervous. They are running against the clock. I can’t say for sure that nothing is going on, but they are running out of time.”
New gaming compact is a ‘priority’
The current 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.
The Seneca Nation and the state of New York went to court in 2017 over disputed gambling revenue disbursements. The legal battle lasted for years before the Nation ultimately paid $565 million in 2022.
The two sides looked like they had reached a new deal in the spring. But the deal fell apart less than a month later when Rochester-area lawmakers sounded the alarm on a clandestine proposal in the legislative language to add a casino in the city.
The Seneca Nation citizens must approve the new compact by a referendum vote. The US Department of Interior also must sign off on the deal. Finally, the State Legislature must pass a bill authorizing Hochul to enter into a new agreement.
Borrello said getting a new gaming compact approved is a “priority for me.”
“Seneca Nation members and businesses are a significant part of our lives and culture, and I am proud to represent them in the State Senate. Their world-class gaming facilities and resorts are an important part of the hospitality and tourism economy of Western New York. The people of the Seneca Nation deserve a fair and equitable compact.”