New York: Non-tribal casinos form coalition to have a voice in Seneca gaming compact negotiations

Non-native casinos and racinos in the Finger Lakes and Western New York regions, along with the unions representing their employees, have come together to form the Fair Compact for All Coalition. Their objective is to have a say in the ongoing negotiations for a new gaming compact between the state and the Seneca Nation of Indians.

The coalition comprises representatives from del Lago Resort and Casino, Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack, Hamburg Gaming, and Batavia Downs. Their core concern is ensuring that any forthcoming Seneca gaming compact takes into account the future of their operations and the communities that have grown reliant on their success.

The facilities collectively employ over 3,500 New Yorkers, with the majority being union members. They also contribute close to $180 million annually in state gaming taxes, the group noted. The coalition has gained the support of organizations like Rochester Workers United and the Horsemen’s Benevolent Protective Association.

Chris Riegle, President and General Manager of Finger Lakes Gaming, called for a fair and transparent negotiation process, stating: “We cannot and will not tolerate any middle-of-the-night deals that lack transparency, public input, and data-driven economic analysis.”

We welcome competition, but we can’t compete without a level playing field. We look forward to working with our coalition members, local elected officials, and representatives in Albany to secure a truly fair compact for all.”

The current gaming compact between the Senecas and New York is set to expire on December 9, adding a sense of urgency to the negotiations. According to the tribe, their three casinos in Western New York and the Southern Tier are essential for local employment, providing hundreds of millions of dollars in local wages and over $1 billion in annual economic impact to the region.

The Seneca Nation regards the coalition as representing competing gaming interests that are intervening in government-to-government negotiations.

“In reality, the changes to the New York gaming market, and their continued impact on the promises made to the Seneca Nation under our compact, are central to our discussions with New York state,” Seneca President Rickey Armstrong Sr. said, as per Spectrum News.

“Although it has been nearly 60 days since our last negotiation meeting, we look forward to the state re-engaging in discussions soon, and hold optimism that important progress can be made.”

The Senecas and the state reached a preliminary agreement in June, but leaked details that would permit the Senecas to establish a new operation in Monroe County were met with resistance from various quarters, including lawmakers, community members, and the newly formed coalition.

Ultimately, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s decision not to bring the deal’s authorization up for a vote compelled the parties to return to the negotiating table. It’s worth noting that any final agreement would require approval from the state, a referendum vote of Seneca Nation members, and federal approval.

Governor Kathy Hochul’s involvement, which was previously limited due to her husband’s association with casino operator Delaware North, a member of the Fair Compact for All coalition, could now become more direct following her husband’s resignation.