Seneca Nation ‘Optimistic’ It Will Land ‘Fair’ Gaming Compact With New York

Written By Chris Imperiale on August 31, 2022

Matthew Pagels, president of the Seneca Nation of Indians, announced last week that the group is seeking a “fair, new” gaming compact with New York. The tribe’s previous 20-year contract with the Empire State is set to expire next year.

After creating the initial pact in 2002, Seneca Nation opened the doors to three separate NY casinos in the western part of the state. These include the following:

  • Seneca Niagara
  • Buffalo Creek
  • Seneca Allegany

With the gaming landscape undergoing lots of changes over the last two decades, Seneca Nation wants a new deal that represents the current times.

Seneca Nation gaming compact in New York

Seneca Nation members have already begun meeting with New York representatives in regard to negotiating a new agreement. The current one expires in Dec. 2023.

The Nation believes that it’s in line for an updated, more beneficial compact because of all of the expansion in legal gambling in recent years. The tribe’s spokesperson, Phil Pantano, mentioned how there are a lot of additional casino options within the region now.

When Seneca Nation launched its first casino location, there were just a total of 10 others within New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Ontario, Canada. However, now those states feature over 50 active casinos.

More specifically, a couple of additional casinos in NY continue to impact the Nation’s revenue flow. Both the Finger Lakes’ Del Lago Resort and Casino, as well as the Tioga Downs Casino Resort in Nichols, just recently started accepting bets in the state. Each of these establishments don’t fall under the Nation’s exclusive territory.

There is also the arrival of other betting locations through video lottery terminals (VLTs). Several places like Batavia Downs Gaming offer these gaming options as racinos, which adds to the list of properties competing with the Nation’s casinos.

Seneca perspective on expanded NY gambling

Pagels and Pantano shared similar viewpoints when discussing the expanded betting scene in New York. According to the Niagara Gazette, Pagels said: “That’s pulling from our market.”

Seneca Nation’s spokesperson agreed, stating, “The landscape has exploded.”

Of course, there’s also the expansion of online casinos in the US and eventually New York. While NY online casinos don’t appear likely to launch this year, they could receive legislation in 2023.

At the moment, the Nation provides 25% of revenue from slots and VLTs back to the state. The same percentage goes back to host communities like Niagara Falls, Salamanca and Buffalo.

That figure is likely to be debated, though, as Pagels has previously expressed that 25% in revenue sharing is much too high.

Seneca Nation hits 20-year anniversary in NY

Both sides of the upcoming gaming compact negotiation feel like they’re in a good place. Even with some tension of late (the state forced overdue slots payments), Pagels likes the Nation’s current position. He said:

“We’re as optimistic as we can be. There’s no looking back.”

A similar message is coming from Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office. It released the following statement:

“We are confident that the process will continue in a way that best serves New Yorkers.”

So as the two groups are about to potentially move forward together, Seneca Nation recognized its 20th anniversary of the initial contract. The original went into effect on Aug. 18, 2002.

The total reaches about $1.7 billion when calculating the overall economic impact the Nation has created over that time in Western NY. This includes additional money outside of casino revenue, like construction and vendor fees.

Seneca Nation’s three casinos employ over 3,000 residents in the area, with around 1,000 of those from Niagara County. Pagels talked about the Nation’s success in growing this unconventional industry over the years. He said:

“Starting a gaming business was a bold move by the Seneca Nation. Some might say it was a gamble, but it has clearly paid off.”

Photo by Shutterstock / PlayNY
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Chris Imperiale

Chris Imperiale covers New York sports betting and NY casino gaming industries for PlayNY. He holds a journalism degree from Rutgers University and was formerly on staff at Bleacher Report.

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