New Exec Hired As Seneca Continues To Work On New Compact With State

Written By David Danzis on October 25, 2023 - Last Updated on October 26, 2023
Image of Rod Centers, the new chief operating officer of Seneca Gaming Corporation

An experienced casino executive has joined Seneca Gaming Corporation as the tribe behind the company continues its negotiations with the state over a new gaming compact.

Rod Centers has been named chief operating officer of Seneca Gaming, according to multiple reports. Centers has more than a decade of experience in the gaming industry, including stints with Pinnacle Entertainment, Jack Entertainment, Penn National and Caesars Entertainment.

The eyes of the gambling world are on NY at the moment. The Empire State is preparing to award three downstate NY casino licenses that would dramatically impact upstate gambling parlors. Meanwhile, a state lawmaker is continuing his push to legalize online casinos in NY in 2024.

Seneca names Rod Centers new COO

Centers is tasked with overseeing a trio of class III casinos in Western New York owned and operated by the Seneca Nation of Indians. Those casinos are: Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel, Seneca Allegany Casino and Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino.

In a statement announcing his appointment, Centers called Seneca Gaming Corporation “a dynamic company” with “three world-class properties” that “occupy an important role in the gaming market.” He added:

“I look forward to engaging with the senior management team, the property General Managers, and team members across the organization to deliver a plan for growth that builds upon the company’s two decades of outstanding success.”

Centers was chosen because of his “proven track record” of “operations management and leadership, performance improvement, and producing data-driven results,” according to the company.

Kevin Nephew, president and CEO of Seneca Gaming Corporation, said:

“Rod has a keen understanding and proven ability to identify operational efficiencies and to help organizations implement improvement measures that, in turn, help maximize results. He will be a tremendous addition to our team at Seneca Gaming Corporation, and I am confident he will make important contributions to our continued success.”

Seneca NY casino compact in dicey position

The Nation and the state have been trying to come to terms on a new gaming compact. The tribe’s current 20-year compact expires on Dec. 9.

The gaming compact gives the Seneca Nation exclusive rights to offer “Las Vegas-style” casino gaming in the state’s Western region in exchange for 25% of gambling revenues.

In June, the two sides announced a tentative agreement. 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.

The deal fell apart less than a month later after Rochester-area and Monroe County lawmakers sounded the alarm on a clandestine proposal contained within the legislative language to add a casino in the city.

Deadline is less than 60 days away

The ticking clock adds tension to an already strained relationship.

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.

Further complicating matters is the governor’s position.

Gov. Kathy Hochul had to recuse herself from negotiations with the Senecas until just a few months ago due to her husband’s former role with a gambling competitor. William Hochul had worked for Delaware North, a direct competitor of the Seneca Nation’s casinos, but recently resigned.

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.

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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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