Rochester Casino Details Remain Unknown, Local Leaders Enraged Over Seneca Deal

Posted on: June 16, 2023, 11:40h. 

Last updated on: June 17, 2023, 02:02h.

New York state officials with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) office are on damage control trying to cool enraged local leaders in Rochester and the state lawmakers who represent the Lake Ontario city after reports surfaced last week that the governor is ready to permit the Seneca Nation to build a full-scale casino resort there.

Rochester casino New York Kathy Hochul Seneca Nation
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is ready to sign a 20-year gaming compact with the Seneca Nation that possibly allows the tribe to build a Las Vegas-style casino in Rochester. That has local leaders in the city upset at Hochul’s office for not including them in such discussions and not allowing the community to provide input. (Image: Times Union)

Despite Hochul’s office sitting down with Rochester leaders and state lawmakers from the Finger Lakes region, details on what the Seneca Nation’s proposed gaming compact includes remain vague.

Hochul and the tribe that owns and operates Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino, Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, and Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino last week announced a new 20-year, Class III gaming compact “agreement in principle.” The governor is tasked with handling such tribal relations, but compacts require legislative approval.

The New York Senate signed off on a measure to allow Hochul’s terms struck with the tribe to proceed. The bill has since stalled in the State Assembly after reports surfaced that the compact includes a provision that could allow the tribe to pursue a Las Vegas-style casino in Rochester.

Mayor Outraged

Rochester Mayor Malik Evans (D) isn’t mincing words in voicing his position that if a casino in Rochester is included in the governor’s compact with the Senecas, his office and community should have been consulted.

How dare someone think they can do something in the city of Rochester and not contact the Mayor,” Evans said Thursday at a press conference. “I have a serious problem with that.”

Evans said no one who has a stake in Rochester, from his office to the city’s state representatives in Albany, was included in the tribal compact negotiations.

It’s an issue of disrespect to the city of Rochester that these types of things would be happening without a conversation,” Evans added.

Assemblymember Harry Bronson (D-District 138) said he has not been afforded the compact in principle that Hochul’s office reached with the Seneca tribe.

“The public has been loud in opposition to a casino in Monroe County,” Bronson said. “We want answers. We want to make sure that our communities have an opportunity for input on this.”

Op-Ed Slams Governor

Hochul recused herself from the Seneca compact negotiations because of a conflict of interest. She instead appointed two of her top aides to handle the tribal gaming talks.

The governor, who narrowly kept her job last November by fighting off a gubernatorial challenge from GOP nominee Lee Zeldin, has faced a slew of criticism of late for her seemingly backroom deals. New York is in the process of issuing three Las Vegas-style casino licenses for the downstate, and the bidding has raised more critiques of the governor’s actions.

The editorial board at the New York Post recently wrote a scathing allegation about Hochul regularly participating in “pay-to-play” schemes.

Gov. Kathy Hochul (no stranger to overt pay-for-play schemes and other shady shenanigans) palled it up recently with billionaire/Mets owner/would-be gaming magnate Steve Cohen at a game at Citi Field — a hair’s breadth from the site where Cohen is hoping to build a gaming den if he wins the one license for a New York City casino,” the editorial published on June 3 read.

The Post detailed Cohen’s political donations, which include nearly $70K to Hochul’s campaign war chest, $125K to the New York Democratic Campaign Committee, $25K to the state Democratic Assembly Committee, and more than $475K in lobbying expenses, the vast majority of which benefited Democratic causes.