Seneca Nation Casino Compact Expires Dec. 9, as State Negotiations Continue
Posted on: November 6, 2023, 09:13h.
Last updated on: November 6, 2023, 01:52h.
The Seneca Nation’s Class III gaming compact with the State of New York expires on December 9. With just 33 days remaining, the odds appear good that an extension of the current casino revenue-sharing agreement is in the future.
The Seneca Nation owns and operates three upstate casinos: Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino, Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino, and Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino. The tribe additionally operates game rooms and bingo halls in Irving, Salamanca, and Oil Spring.
The federally recognized tribe possesses the exclusive rights to Las Vegas-style slot machines and table games west of State Route 14. The tribe’s Class III gaming compact, which includes those exclusivity rights, will soon terminate. The compact was initially agreed to in 2002 when Republican George Pataki was governor.
The Senecas are hoping to expand their gaming empire in the upstate region with a new casino, possibly in Rochester. But the backroom negotiations between the tribe and Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) administration caused much pushback from Rochester leaders and the community.
In June, Hochul and the Seneca Nation surprised much of the state by announcing that new compact terms had been reached. But after reports surfaced that the new 20-year terms included a provision allowing the tribe to open a fourth full-fledged casino, this one in Rochester, the outpouring of criticism from the Monroe County seat resulted in the State Assembly refusing to approve of the terms as necessitated.
Hochul initially recused herself from the tribal gaming discussions because her husband, William Hochul, was employed by Delaware North as its executive vice president and general counsel. Delaware North is a competitor of the Senecas through its Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack.
Mr. Hochul is no longer employed by Delaware North as of Aug. 15, 2023. He also no longer receives any sort of compensation from the firm and does not possess any ownership interests in the hospitality and gaming company. As such, the governor’s recusal ended and she has returned to the negotiating table with the Senecas.
With only 33 days remaining before the compact expires, there likely isn’t enough time to avoid an extension of the current agreement. Along with the state legislature being required to approve of the new terms the governor reaches, which would require her to call a special session, the Senecas would need to hold a referendum to gain support for the revenue-sharing terms from its tribal members. After the state and tribe gain full approval, the document would then head to the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs for ratification. The BIA review can take up to 45 days alone.
Class III gaming compacts under federal law can be extended with far fewer approvals. Hochul and Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong Sr. can singlehandedly extend the current compact.
During the extension period of their Class III compact, the Senecas would direct what the state would receive under the current terms into an escrow account. The state would be made full on what they are owed retroactively. The BIA doesn’t restrict how long an extension can run.
The tribe’s current compact requires it to direct 25% of its gross slot win to Albany.
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