Seneca Nation Likely Not Getting Long-Term New York Compact With March 31 Deadline Approaching

Written By Grant Lucas on March 29, 2024
Image of Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino for a story on the Seneca Nation and New York facing a March 31 deadline for a long-term compact

Once again, state officials and the Seneca Nation of Indians face a deadline to come to terms on a long-term gaming compact.

But don’t expect something to be finalized before the March 31 date. Which, depending on your perspective, is both positive and negative.

For years, the Seneca and the state of New York have attempted to renegotiate a new agreement. Previously, the two sides agreed to a compact in 2002 that expired in December 2023. Yet a temporary arrangement was announced toward the end of the year, marking March 31 as the next “deadline.”

Without a proper, long-term compact, though, some uncertainty still remains. And, as was the case throughout much of 2023, frustration still exists from the lack of a formal agreement.

“We’ve heard a few times that they’re close,” Sen. George Borello told Spectrum News, “but so far we haven’t seen anything come forward as far as an agreement on a new compact for the Seneca Nation.”

Recapping latest temporary compact with Seneca

In December, when officials announced the temporary deal, both sides agreed it represented a positive step in the right direction of a long-term compact.

“Over the last several weeks, our discussions with New York State, including face-to-face meetings with Governor [Kathy] Hochul, have centered, in part, on the potential extension of our current compact, especially as the Dec. 9 expiration gets ever closer,” Rickey Armstrong Sr., president of the Seneca, said after the announcement.

“As a result of those discussions between our governments, the Seneca Nation and New York State have agreed to a short-term extension of our current compact. As important, we have agreed to continue negotiations on a new compact.”

The agreement allowed the Seneca to continue operating three Class III casinos in Western New York, including Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel, Seneca Allegany Casino and Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino while paying a 25% tax on revenue from slot machines and other gaming devices.

“With the signing of this agreement, there is important momentum for negotiations around the compact,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said at the time.

“I remain committed to working with President Armstrong and the Seneca Nation in finalizing an agreement that is fair to all parties, and I look forward to more conversations in the coming weeks and months as we continue to meet.”

Long-term deal likely not done by March 31

Despite the positivity emanated from tribal and state leaders, there is little indication that a long-term compact with the Seneca Nation will come by the time March 31 rolls around.

While the previous deadline was more hard-and-fast, officials agreed to quarterly extensions if a new deal is not reached. Meaning that if March 31 passes without an official agreement, they will extend the deadline to allow for more negotiations.

While that could certainly provide some optimism that both sides are all-in on nailing something down, Borellow told Spectrum News that the situation is not ideal.

“I think that’s troubling,” Borello told the news outlet, “because the governor and her team have failed so many times to bring something to the table that the Seneca Nation can agree upon so this automatic renewal does concern me.”

A full-term agreement ensures fiscal certainty for the state legislature, Borello said, especially with New York facing a $4.3 billion deficit this year and upward of $9 billion in 2025.

“This extension means that very high level of revenue under the current compact can actually be built into the revenue sources for this budget,” said Borello, whose district surrounds Seneca territory. “There’s no doubt that the new compact is going to probably, is likely going to provide less revenue.”

It also means long-term insurance for the Seneca, rather than counting down the days to expiration. What’s more, if lawmakers do legalize the industry, the Seneca Nation with an official compact could become eligible to offer online casinos in NY. For all these reasons and more, Borello said, the Seneca deserves a long-term compact. And soon.

“The Seneca Nation employs thousands of people in Western New York. They have a large economic impact and they deserve a fair compact that is in line with the dramatic changes to gaming that’s happened in the last few years.”

Photo by David Duprey / AP Photo
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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is the managing editor for PlayNY. A longtime, award-winning sports writer, Grant has covered gambling and legal sports betting since 2018, when he got his start reporting on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania industries. He now oversees PlayNY as New York expands legalized gambling to sports betting and online casino gaming.

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