Twenty Years Into New York Retail Casino Gaming, is it Time to Revisit the Compact?

Seneca Nation is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its gaming compact with New York StateThrough the compact, the tribe owns and operates three upstate casinos. Though celebrations have highlighted the successes of those gaming facilities, the anniversary has also raised the question of whether the 2002 agreement is still fair in 2022.

The three casinos and resorts are on Seneca Nation of Indians territory, close to Lake Erie and the Canadian border: Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino, Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino, and Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino. Under the current class III gaming compact agreement with New York State, 25% of the Nation’s VLT and slot machine proceeds go to the State and into the communities.

Seneca Nation Wants Compact Reviewed

A lot has changed since Seneca Nation opened its casinos two decades ago. Online gambling is one noticeable difference, but the brick-and-mortar gaming business has also seen a lot of growth.

Seneca spokesperson Phil Pantano recalled at a press conference that only ten other casinos were operating in adjacent states and Canadian provinces when the State and tribe signed the compact. He says that number has since multiplied to more than 50 casinos.

President Matthew Pagels also pointed to the impact on Seneca casinos of the State’s decision to expand online gaming and the increased availability of VLTs. Although New York doesn’t yet have online casinos, Seneca territory is sandwiched between Ontario and Pennsylvania, both of which do. Pagels says that the gaming industry has “materially changed,” and the terms of the compact should reflect that.

New York State and Seneca on Track for Negotiations

In a video addressed to the Nation, President Matthew Pagels commented:

Representatives from the Nation recently met with representatives from New York State for a preliminary discussion on the negotiation process… Negotiations can begin soon in earnest.

Pagels hasn’t yet disclosed what exactly is up for negotiation. However, last year he repeatedly described the 25% revenue share to the State as being far too high. He did say that Seneca leaders were optimistic, and there was no going back on their current stance.

Though schedules have been discussed between the Nation and the State, no details have been shared publicly on an expected timeline.

Meanwhile, New York online sports betting has been booming, and it may soon be time for online casinos. This year’s effort stalled, but it would have been a big lift to pass another gambling expansion bill soon after the sports betting launch. The State’s most devoted proponent of online gambling, Sen. Joseph Addabbo, has just won his primary race. Assuming he prevails in the general election in November, he should be ready to renew the push in 2023.

About the Author

Katy Jean

Katy Jean is a writer and regular contributor to Bonus. She’s also a front page writer for The Nova Scotian in The Chronicle Herald, delivering news focused on her home province. Katy rose to prominence on Twitter as a source of information on public health briefings, politics, and access to services during the COVID-19 pandemic. She began writing for Online Poker Report in January 2022, concentrating on the Ontario iGaming launch, including its impact on First Nations. At Bonus, she continues to use plain language to help new readers understand the complex online gambling industry, while adding her own expert insight.

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