Seneca Nation compact renewal: Negotiations hit stalemate as deadline approaches

As the December 9 deadline approaches for the expiration of the Seneca Nation Compact, negotiations between the Seneca Nation and the state of New York have hit an impasse, according to reports from Buffalo News.

Owning and operating three casinos in the state—the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel in Niagara Falls, the Seneca Allegany Casino in Salamanca, and the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino in Buffalo—the Seneca Nation has been in discussions with the state for months over the renewal of the compact. However, talks stalled during the summer, and there has been little public indication of progress since then.

Even if the state and the tribe were to strike a deal in the coming weeks, it could still be too late to get a new compact in place. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul would need to call in the legislature to pass legislation to approve the new agreement, and the Seneca Nation would have to hold its own referendum to approve the compact. Additionally, the federal government would also have to review the deal.

However, according to federal regulations, the state and the tribe can agree to extend the terms of the current compact until they hammer out a new agreement. Seneca President Rickey Armstrong Jr. expressed hope earlier this year that an extension could be agreed upon. In a May interview with Buffalo News, he anticipated “an extension period where we finish negotiating,” reassuring that casino operations wouldn’t face interruptions.

In August, Armstrong criticized New York’s proposals via X (formerly Twitter), deeming them “unfair and unacceptable.” He emphasized the need for equitable terms for the exclusivity of their gaming operations. “We believe that there is a benefit and a value to exclusivity for our gaming operations, but that value must be reasonably reflected in any payment agreement,” he stated.

Armstrong highlighted the significant changes in the gambling landscape over the past two decades, including the legalization of sports betting, the establishment of numerous brick-and-mortar casinos, and the potential introduction of casino apps in 2024.

In a recent update, Armstrong struck a more optimistic tone, stating: “We have successfully addressed several items with New York state’s negotiating team; however, some important issues remain unresolved.” He mentioned that the Nation is seeking a short-term extension of the current compact to ensure uninterrupted casino operations while finalizing negotiations.

Under the existing compact, the Seneca Nation pays 25% of revenue from slots and other gaming devices for the exclusive right to offer these forms of gambling west of State Route 14.

Earlier this year, reports suggested a deal was in progress but fell apart when news leaked about a potential fourth Seneca casino in the Rochester market. The unexpected development led to opposition from the New York Assembly, ultimately derailing the agreement.

The proposed tax rate at that time was reported to be 19.5%. With no new casino in Rochester, it is believed that the Nation is now seeking a lower tax rate.