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Hochul Says Renegotiations With Seneca Tribe Will Result In Everyone Satisfied

Written By Katarina Vojvodic on July 4, 2023 - Last Updated on August 3, 2023
Seneca Native American speaks During Rally With American Flag and Seneca Nation logo

Less than a month ago, a secret deal had been reached that included putting a New York casino in Rochester. But local and state officials didn’t know anything about a tentative agreement, and the deal fell through once word got out.

The debate resulted in the Assembly refusing to pass a statute authorizing Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign the contract with the Seneca Nation.

Hochul said she had recused herself from negotiating a new Class III tribal gaming agreement with Seneca. She’s staying out of it because her husband, William Hochul, is a senior VP general counsel and secretary at Delaware North, a direct competitor of the Seneca Nation’s three casinos.

The current gaming compact from 2021 will expire on Dec. 9. Although Hochul said she would not get involved with Delaware North business, she chose close advisers — Kathryn Garcia and Counsel Liz Fine — to handle the negotiations on her behalf.

Negotiations between New York State and Seneca Nation are restarting

The News 10 NBC reporter Jennifer Lukey spoke with Hochul on June 30 about the deal that collapsed the first time around. Lukey asked if a casino is now off the table in Rochester and why no one included local and state lawmakers in any of the discussions.

According to the News 10 post, Hochul responded by saying:

“What I’ve read from public sources because again I’m going to remind you that I recused myself in the beginning, delegated the responsibility to work with the Senecas who really wanted confidentially around this, is what I’m understanding. And the process is restarting, there will be more communication and my team is looking forward to coming up with an agreement that serves everyone.

I just explained what recusing means, it means I cannot be putting my thumb on the scale and telling them what to do otherwise, it compromises the situation that I’m in, so that is something that they’ll be working through, I have great confidence in them and I believe we’ll get to a result that makes everyone satisfied.”

Although the Seneca deal wasn’t approved, Hochul remains optimistic. She said her office is working with the tribe to find new terms that will be profitable to both sides:

“I have an outstanding team working on this, I believe that both sides are probably enlisting the top talent they can to work on this issue and I’ll continue to make sure that my team make sure that we are looking for a good outcome for all parties involved. That is their objective, and I’ll be finding out the details when everybody else does.”

Hochul’s staff was accused of sabotaging the deal to benefit Delaware North

Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong Sr. put out a statement recently criticizing Hochul’s staff for sabotaging the agreement.

Armstrong said he thinks Hochul purposely didn’t include a part of her arrangement to stall the compact renewal. He said the move could benefit Delaware North, the company her husband works for. According to The New York Times, he said:

“Governor Hochul may have recused herself from negotiations, but apparently could not recuse her own staff from the expectation that they prioritize corporate interests, Delaware North first and foremost, over those of a sovereign Native Nation.”

Hochul spokeswoman Julie Wood said the statement from the Seneca president was “unfair and untrue.” Wood explained: “We have negotiated in good faith for months, advocated strongly with the legislature to pass the bill, and worked around the clock to resolve concerns.”

Photo by Don Heupel / AP Photo; illustrated by PlayUSA
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Katarina Vojvodic

Katarina Vojvodic is a lead writer for PlayUSA who lives in Toronto. Vojvodic provides coverage of the US gambling industry with a focus on US online casinos. Previously, she covered Ontario’s online gambling industry for Vojvodic holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Belgrade. Outside working hours, she can be found near the water with her husband and their two kids.

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