After backlash from several groups, plans between New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and the Seneca Nation to build a New York casino in Rochester have been scrapped for now.
Earlier this month, the state Senate passed a bill giving the governor’s office the right to finalize a new gaming compact. However, unbeknownst to political leaders, the new compact included a proposed casino in the Greater Rochester area.
Rochester casino plans fall apart
On Thursday, the state Assembly concluded its 2023 legislative session without voting on the bill giving the Senecas the right to move forward with a new casino.
In a joint statement, Assemblymembers Harry Bronson, Sarah Clark, Jennifer Lunsford and DeMond Meeks said:
“Our understanding is that negotiations are headed in the right direction, and recognizing the adverse impact on our community and current workforce, would potentially remove a Rochester area/Monroe County casino.”
According to the Rochester Business Journal, even though casino plans have been scrapped, negotiations on the new gaming compact will continue. The current compact expires on Dec. 9.
Opposition in full force
On June 13, Bronson said he was told the governor’s office could not discuss compact negotiations because of a non-disclosure agreement.
Upon hearing about the proposed casino, several groups denounced the deal, including local legislators, religious leaders, social justice advocates, and the operators of del Lago Resort, Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack and Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel.
“Not here, not today, not ever will we allow a process that silences the voice of the people, that robs the community of economic resources, of its political voice and of its social stability,” said Rev. Kirsten John Foy, president and CEO of The Arc of Justice.
“Nowhere can you point me to where a casino was dropped in the heart of a community and that community thrives as a result of it.”
Tribal leaders still fighting for revised payments to state
In early June, Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong Sr. announced the tribe had agreed “in principle” with Hochul’s administration on a new 20-year tribal gaming compact.
A key component of compact negotiations was whether the tribe would continue paying the state 25% of gaming revenue. According to The Buffalo News, the Seneca’s got their wish.
The news outlet reported the tribe would pay:
- 9.5% of gaming revenue to New York for the first year
- 19.5% for the remaining 19 years
In a lengthy statement, Armstrong Sr. said:
“If the Assembly was willing to take up the legislation, the Nation was willing to make significant concessions from our previous agreement in principle. Unfortunately, we were not able to arrive at a revised agreement that met the needs of the Seneca people while also addressing the concerns of the Assembly and the Executive Office.
It is disappointing that this important work was not completed before the legislature adjourned. However, Assembly leadership has indicated a willingness to return to Albany once the Nation and the State are able to finalize fair terms for a new compact. That remains our goal.”
In response, state lawmakers said they fully support the tribe’s desire for a fair gaming compact.
“We share a common goal in seeking to identify an economic opportunity that will have a long-lasting impact and are grateful the Seneca Nation has indicated a willingness to continue negotiations so we have the opportunity to reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial to the needs of the state, involved localities and the Seneca.”