New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and the Seneca Nation of Indians President Rickey Armstrong Sr. announced they’ve agreed on a short-term gaming compact extension. The extension runs until March 31, 2024, unless the parties sign a new gaming compact before then. If they don’t, it will renew automatically until either party decides otherwise.
The current gaming compact was set to expire on Dec.9. That scenario would have left thousands of jobs in limbo. The Seneca Nation runs three casinos in the state:
- Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel
- Seneca Allegany Casino
- Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino
The two parties said they reached an agreement after face-to-face meetings between Armstrong and Hochul. Until recently, the Governor had recused herself from negotiations because of a conflict of interest. The Governor’s husband, William Hochul, had been working for Delaware North, a competitor of Seneca. However, the Governor’s recusal ended in August after her husband retired, rendering that conflict of interest moot.
The state had reached a provisional agreement with Seneca Nation on a 20-year compact in June. The parties didn’t share many details of the new compact other than that the Seneca would pay New York 25% of their slots and video lottery terminal revenue. Days later, the tribe announced plans to build a new casino in Rochester, much to the surprise of local leaders.
Ensuing pushback derailed the compact and forced negotiations to resume.
Prior Agreement in June Caused Outrage
The Seneca had long eyed Rochester and Monroe County for an expansion, but without success. There has been opposition to gambling expansion in the area, including from a labor union representing 1,000 workers at Del Lago Resort and Casino.
Local leaders were outraged when the news of the new Rochester casino broke. They demanded transparency and answers on why they hadn’t been included in the negotiations. The Governor’s office responded that officials had signed a non-disclosure agreement and couldn’t comment.
The fight continued, eventually leading to the compact being taken off the table in August. The Seneca Nation told a local news station that the state proposed a new deal but that they found it unfavorable.
Ongoing Negotiations Could Impact iGaming Effort
The new compact between the Seneca Nation and New York could impact iGaming legalization chances in the state. New York has legal sports betting as of Jan. 2022, leading the nation in handle and tax revenue.
That led Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. to push to legalize online casinos. Having failed in 2023, Addabbo plans to introduce a new bill next year. He believes iGaming could bring the state up to $1 billion in tax revenue, and BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt is optimistic about the chances.
In 2023, most of the opposition came from retail casino workers’ unions. However, Seneca Nation will also be considering what iGaming would mean for its income and the well-being of its members. Around the country, gaming tribes have become fierce opponents of new gambling laws that they believe would either hurt their revenue or increase it for others without benefit to them.
The tribe already has a rocky relationship with the state, claiming New York allowed the expansion of commercial racinos into their territory. The new Rochester casino might have been a way to smooth things over on that front while also greasing the wheels for iGaming.
The Seneca could equally be opponents or supporters of online casinos in New York, depending on the nature of the deal. But unless efforts to secure local support for the Rochester casino succeed, the tribe will seek a better deal in some other form. However, a better deal for them on the iGaming front would inevitably mean a worse one for the state, commercial operators, or both, which could increase resistance from other sides.