Gambling Legislation

New York’s tribal casino expansion in limbo

The New York Assembly calls time on the ongoing negotiations

Lawmakers are trying to save the day after New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie tweeted that he would not move ahead for a legislative vote on a bill allowing the governor’s office to sign a new casino deal with the Seneca Nation.

Heeastie noted the Monroe County delegation’s concerns about opening a new casino as part of the deal and the possible loss of union jobs. Less than two weeks ago, the Senecas announced they had essentially inked a 20-year deal with the state. Heeastie’s tweet Friday night sparked a lengthy, scathing statement from Seneca Chairman Rickey Armstrong directed at Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Armstrong says the Seneca Nation met with Rochester leaders who were discouraged at not being told about plans to build a future casino in Monroe County. Lawmakers said the executive office told them they were barred from talks because of non-disclosure agreements, but the Seneca leader said those agreements did not exist.

He said the misunderstandings stemmed directly from the governor and criticized her willingness to put the deal on hold. Hochul’s husband is employed by Seneca Gaming’s competitor, Delaware North. Armstrong argued that the interests of Delaware North would continue to be served, noting that company-owned Finger Lakes Gaming was one of the organizations leading the opposition to the Rochester casino.

The Buffalo News reported that under the framework agreement, the percentage of slot machine revenue donated to cities with casinos would drop from 25% to 9.75% in the first year before rising to 19.5% for the duration. However, these percentages have been negotiated to account for possible additional revenue from Rochester Casino and can also include a short-term contract extension. Kennedy said both sides would have to agree for any extension to happen.

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