Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York affirms that discussions with the Seneca Nation remain in progress.

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Posted on: July 3, 2023, 01:29h.

Last updated on: July 3, 2023, 01:29h.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) is denying criticisms of her office’s handling of negotiations with the Seneca Nation regarding a new Class III tribal gaming compact.

New York Kathy Hochul Seneca Nation compact
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul delivers remarks at the opening of The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester on June 30, 2023. Hochul says her office continues to negotiate a new Class III tribal gaming compact with the Seneca Nation. (Image: Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)

Hochul excused herself from all government matters involving Delaware North, a gaming and hospitality firm headquartered in Buffalo, due to her husband’s employment there. William Hochul holds the position of senior vice president and general counsel for Delaware North.

The company manages the gaming and food operations of Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack in Farmington and Hamburg Gaming. Both video gaming racinos are in Upstate New York near where the Senecas hold a monopoly on Las Vegas-style casino gambling west of State Route 14 in the Finger Lakes.

Hochul signed an agreement in 2021 soon after succeeding Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) stipulating that she would not involve herself with Delaware North matters. But with the Seneca’s revenue-sharing agreement set to expire in December, Hochul assigned close aides to handle the compact talks on her behalf.

Last month, Hochul’s office and the Seneca Nation surprised many when the two sides announced a new tribal gaming agreement. But after word got out that the terms included potentially allowing the tribe to construct a Las Vegas-style resort casino in Rochester, local and state officials scolded the governor for not involving them in such critical negotiations.

The controversy resulted in the New York Assembly refusing to pass a statute authorizing Hochul to sign the Seneca contract as required by the state constitution.

Discussions Ongoing

Hochul has been silent on the Seneca Nation casino talks throughout the process, but the governor finally commented late last week before the long holiday weekend. Hochul says she has upheld her promise to not provide her input on the tribal treaty.

I excused myself from the beginning and delegated the responsibility to work with the Senecas, who wanted confidentiality around this from what I’m understanding,” Hochul said while visiting Rochester for the opening of a museum.

“The process is restarting. There will be more communication, and my team is looking forward to coming up with an agreement that serves everyone. That is the status right now – but again, I’m not involved in the negotiations, the timing, or the involvement in talking to other people about this.”

After the state Assembly opted not to allow Hochul to ratify the new compact, Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong Sr. criticized the governor for failing to communicate the discussions with relevant state lawmakers and local officials in Rochester. Armstrong believes Hochul intentionally excluded them as part of her plan to delay the compact renewal, which could benefit Delaware North.

“The greatest beneficiary of the Nation’s expiring compact is Delaware North,” Armstrong stated. “The Nation is once again reminded that Native Nations in the State of New York are secondary to corporate interests.”

Back to the Drawing Board

Although the Seneca compact was not approved, Hochul says her office is once again working with the tribe to find new terms that will benefit both sides without causing controversy in Rochester or any other upstate town.

“I have an exceptional team working on this”, Hochul added. “I believe that both sides are enlisting the top talent they can to work on this issue, and I’ll continue to ensure that we’re seeking a positive outcome for all parties involved.”

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