Seneca Nation Wants New Compact, But Actions Of Gov. Hochul ‘Will Never Be Forgotten’

Written By Grant Lucas on November 4, 2022
seneca nations new york casinos compact negotiations

Not long ago, the Seneca Nation of Indians held optimism that it would land a new and “fair” gaming compact with the state of New York.

As it stands, the tribe remains in negotiations to renew that agreement, set to expire at the end of 2023.

Matthew Pagels, president of Seneca Nation, noted that the tribe continues “putting every foot forward” to get the deal done. However, the Gov. Kathy Hochul administration is “making not as much of a commitment,” according to Pagels.

On top of that, resentment still lingers surrounding the actions of Hochul and the state this year. Particularly how the governor intends to funnel some of the NY casino gaming revenue from the Seneca Nation toward a new Buffalo Bills stadium.

Said Pagels: “It will never be forgotten.”

Anger still lingers amid new Seneca compact negotiations

For years, the relationship between the Seneca Nation and the state has been tumultuous, at best. The tribe withheld its revenue-sharing payments after 2017, claiming that the payment term ended after the first 14 years of the compact passed, which occurred in 2002.

A federal appeals court in 2021 ruled that the tribe, in fact, owed the state $435 million. Earlier this year, Hochul announced that the state and Seneca Nation reached a resolution. As a result, the Seneca paid $564 million in outstanding casino revenue payments.

However, the way in which New York resolved the dispute did not — and still doesn’t — sit well with Pagels and the Seneca Nation.

The state froze the tribe’s bank accounts, holding “the Senecas and thousands of Western New Yorkers and families hostage for several days,” Pagels said at the time.

The Seneca president noted that doing so prevented many casino employees from accessing health care and prescription medication.

Seneca’s NY casino revenue payments to help fund Bills stadium

When the Seneca Nation released its payment, Hochul thanked Pagels and the tribe. She added that those funds “were generated in Western New York, and I am directing the State’s share, which is more than $418 million, to the new Buffalo Bills stadium.

That didn’t sit well with the Senecas. Pagels quickly released a statement that Hochul “couldn’t contain her excitement to boast about her Seneca ransom money for a new stadium.” He added:

“The governor’s new stadium won’t be a product of progress. It will be a monument to Albany’s vindictive desire to punish the Seneca people.”

Hochul sending those payments toward a new Bills stadium also hasn’t sat well with critics.

During last week’s gubernatorial debate, candidate Lee Zeldin declared that Hochul “screwed over” the Seneca Nation. Hochul, however, staunchly defended the decision.

Optimism remains for new Seneca gaming compact

A few weeks ago, Pagels announced that the Seneca Nation seeks an updated and “fair” gaming compact with New York. One that is more beneficial to the tribe considering the explosion of legal gambling expansion in New York.

With commercial casinos opening, legal online sports betting in New York, and the potential expansion to NY online casinos, the “landscape has exploded,” a Seneca spokesperson said at the time. All of that, Pagels claimed, is “pulling from our market.

Now, Pagels has requested that Hochul provide a statement that a renewed compact with the Seneca is “instrumental to western New York.”

“There are thousands of people, thousands of jobs. Not just the Senecas but Western New York lives around the three facilities owned by the Seneca Nation and we need her commitment.”

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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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