A group of gaming representatives, local elected leaders, businesses and community members in the Finger Lakes and Western New York regions recently launched a new coalition, The Fair Compact for All.
The coalition is set up to ensure that the state’s gaming compact negotiations with the Seneca Nation are “transparent and equitable.”
The Fair Compact for All Coalition said through this new compact, local jobs can be protected, communities can have financial stability and a fair hearing in the Finger Lakes and Western New York regions.
Austin Reed, executive director of the Finger Lakes Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said in a news release on the coalition’s website:
“Our members work seven days a week, 365 days a year because horses don’t take vacations and need daily care. We don’t just work in this community, we live here, pay taxes, and send our kids to school here.
We deserve a fair and transparent Seneca gaming negotiation process that protects our jobs and our significant contributions to our local economy.”
The end of the current compact with the Seneca Nation is fast approaching, and this is what prompted the coalition’s formation, announced Oct. 11, that aims to ensure all parties involved are considered. The existing 20-year compact between the state and Seneca Nation started in 2002 and expires on Dec. 9, 2023.
Finger Lakers and New York gaming facilities impact economic growth
Currently, the Finger Lakers and New York gaming facilities include:
- Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack
- Hamburg Gaming
- Del Lago Resort & Casino
- Batavia Downs Gaming
These facilities employ over 3,500 residents of New York, most of them union members. Moreover, they contribute substantially to the state’s annual gaming revenue, surpassing the Seneca Nation by generating about $180 million, thereby contributing to the “economic and community impact” in the regions in which they operate.
In a statement, Lance Young, vice president and general manager of del Lago Resort & Casino, said:
“Our casino alone, which is the largest entertainment employer in Seneca County, has generated more than 1,500 direct and indirect jobs along with more than $200 million in annual sales of good and services pre-pandemic.
We are still building back our operations. A truly fair Seneca gaming compact will recognize the importance of these contributions and enable us to continue to grow and support the community for years to come.”
Members of the coalition also provide charitable support for nonprofit organizations within the community and generate revenue for education.
Earlier in June, the Fair Compact for All coalition expressed their opposition to the Seneca Rochester casino proposed in Monroe County. They argued that the establishment of a new tribal casino could potentially lead to an oversaturated gaming market, jeopardizing the benefits that gaming facilities bring to the region.
‘We can’t compete without a level playing field’
Chris Riegle, president and general manager of Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack said: “We cannot and will not tolerate any middle-of-the-night deals that lack transparency, public input and data-driven economic analysis.
We welcome competition, but we can’t compete without a level playing field. We look forward to working with our coalition members, local elected officials, and representatives in Albany to secure a truly fair compact for all.”
Henry Wojtaszek, president and CEO of Batavia Downs Gaming, added:
“Unfair competition dropped on top of us would not only hinder that mission but also the welfare of our employees and the hard-working men and women in the harness racing industry who depend on us for their livelihoods.”
The manager of the Rochester Regional Joint Board/Workers United, Gary Bonadonna Jr., disclosed that the Finger Lakes region contributes $1.8 billion in tourism-related labor income.
Therefore, a new Seneca compact should prioritize preserving the current gaming operations to ensure the continuation of well-paying jobs for local families and stimulate growth in the local economy.