“Seneca Nation and New York Governor Hochul Agree to Extend Compact”

Posted on: December 5, 2023, 12:44h. 

Last updated on: December 4, 2023, 04:53h.

The Seneca Nation in Western New York and Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) have agreed to extend the tribe’s Class III gaming compact set to expire December 9.

Seneca Nation compact Kathy Hochul New York
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and Seneca Nation President Rickey L. Armstrong, Sr. shake hands after signing an extension of the tribe’s Class III gaming compact. The tribe and governor will continue negotiating a more permanent, long-term agreement. (Image: Governor Kathy Hochul’s Office)

The tribe and governor prolonged the casino revenue-sharing agreement to March 31, the same day the New York State Legislature is due to send Hochul a budget for the state’s 2025 fiscal year.

Extending the Class III gaming compact allows the Seneca Nation to continue operating its three casino resorts, Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino, Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino, and Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) permits federally recognized tribes to operate Class I and II games, which include pull-tabs, scratch-offs, bingo, and bingo electronic machines, on their sovereign lands. For Indian casinos to offer Las Vegas-style slots and house-banked table games like blackjack and roulette, a Class III gaming compact with their host state government is required.

Extension Continues Negotiations

Until recently, Hochul had recused herself from the Seneca Nation compact talks because her husband, William Hochul, had served as the executive vice president and general counsel of Delaware North. That company is a direct competitor of the Seneca Nation because it operates the Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack property.

Mr. Hochul is no longer employed at Delaware North and therefore the governor is back handling the tribal casino talks. For a new compact to be installed, the governor or her designated aides must first reach new terms. The compact must then gain State Legislature approval.

Seneca President Rickey L. Armstrong Sr. and Hochul met Friday to sign the compact extension. Armstrong said the delay is a temporary solution for a critical issue.

This short-term extension will provide additional time for our governments to complete compact negotiations and to seek all necessary approvals in accordance with Seneca Nation, New York State, and federal law,” Armstrong said in a statement. “Under the extension, our three gaming properties will continue to operate without interruption, alleviating any concerns about potential impacts for our thousands of casino employees, which was a priority for the Nation.”

Hochul said the expiration pushback provides additional time to work “towards a long-term resolution.”

Bargaining Chips

Under the tribe’s current compact, the Seneca Nation maintains the exclusive rights to operate slot machines and dealer table games west of State Route 14.

New York benefits from the agreement, as the state receives 25% of the tribe’s gross gaming revenue generated by those slot machines. In recent years, that’s equated to about $100 million annually.

The tribe is demanding a new compact because casinos have continued to encroach on their turf. Upstate New York is today home to four commercial land-based casinos that also offer slots and table games, plus sports betting. The nearest to the Seneca’s casino territory border is del Lago, which is less than seven miles east of State Route 14 in Waterloo.

The tribe is seeking to reduce its 25% slot share. Previous compact negotiations have also included possibly allowing the Senecas to build a fourth full-scale casino resort, with Rochester being the tribe’s preferred market.

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