The Seneca Nation of Indians has a new gaming compact with the state of New York.
At least temporarily.
The Seneca reportedly reached a short-term extension of its gaming compact, which was due to expire Dec. 9. Officials landed on the agreement after a face-to-face meeting between Seneca President Rickey Armstrong Sr. and Gov. Kathy Hochul.
The new deal now runs through March 31. Officials will continue negotiations on a more-permanent compact. This temporary extension will automatically renew unless one side decides not to do so or if both parties agree on a new deal. Terms of this compact are unchanged from the previous agreement.
Extension a positive step toward new NY casino compact
As it stands, the current gaming compact allows the Seneca Nation to operate three Class III casinos in Western New York: Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel, Seneca Allegany Casino and Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino.
In return, the tribe pays a 25% tax on its revenues from slot machines and other gaming devices in the state. The state redistributes that money to the communities that host those casinos.
While work remains to get the real deal done, this temporary extension is certainly a positive step after months – years, even – of tumultuousness.
“Over the last several weeks, our discussions with New York State, including face-to-face meetings with Governor Hochul, have centered, in part, on the potential extension of our current compact, especially as the Dec. 9 expiration gets ever closer,” Armstrong said after the meeting with Hochul.
“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.”
Officials narrowly beat compact expiration date
Both New York and Seneca Nation headed toward potential disaster before an 11th-hour extension came to existence. As noted, the compact was set to expire in five days. Now, at least, officials have another few months to lock down a longer-term deal.
For his part, Armstrong noted that this additional time allows for both sides to gain approvals within the tribe, the state and federal law. As they continue negotiations, the three Seneca casinos can operate uninterrupted, easing concerns about an expired deal’s impact on jobs. It also kept the door open for the Seneca to join the NY online casinos landscape should the state legalize the vertical.
“No issue is of greater importance to the economies of Western New York and the Seneca Nation than a fair compact,” Armstrong said.
“Tens of thousands of individuals, families and businesses across Western New York are depending on an agreement that secures the significant jobs, business opportunities, and economic benefits the Seneca Nation delivers to the Western New York economy.”
Armstrong also said that Hochul expressed a desire to ease tensions between the state and the Seneca Nation, allowing both parties to start from scratch and build a friendlier relationship.
Hochul said in a statement that this extension shows progress toward a more concrete compact.
“With the signing of this agreement, there is important momentum for negotiations around the compact. 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.”
Progress, finally, after months of tension
Even if it is a simple extension to allow negotiations to continue, it is still much better than the alternative. For months, tribal and state officials attempted to renew the Seneca compact.
It appeared as if one came to fruition in June, as Armstrong announced a 20-year deal with the state. However, details within the compact – including a proposed casino in the Rochester area – ultimately sunk the deal.
Since then, there had not been much progress toward an updated compact. And during that time, several lawmakers came forward to demand more urgency.
Assemb. Joseph Giglio, for example, expressed his frustration, noting: “Everybody will pay the price for a delay, including the state. It would be catastrophic.”
Similarly, Sen. George Borrello emphasized that a renewed Seneca compact “is essential for the economic well-being of Western New York.”
More recently, Borrello said that New York “pulled the rug out from underneath the Seneca Nation when they created three state-run casinos,” referring to the downstate licenses. He added that not reaching a renewed compact represents “a failure of the governor’s office and her team to not negotiate in a timely manner.”
For now, at least, the state and the Seneca Nation have some more time to come to a “fair and equitable” agreement that the tribe so desires.