A breakthrough has been reached between the Seneca Nation of Indians and the state of New York on a new agreement to keep the tribe’s casinos open.
Seneca President Rickey Armstrong, Sr. said in a statement earlier this week the two sides have come to a deal in principle for a new gaming compact that would run for 20 years.
It’s been a priority for the Western New York-based sovereign nation as the existing 21-year compact is set to expire in December.
“Now that we have reached a point of agreement with the state’s negotiators on a framework that we believe is fair, we hope to move as quickly as possible toward finalizing the terms and securing all necessary approvals to enact what we believe will be another historic agreement that builds upon what we have accomplished over the past two decades,” Armstrong said.
Details of the proposed compact have yet to be released. A message to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office was not immediately returned.
Meanwhile, the state moves ahead on plans to place at least three brick-and-mortar casinos in the New York City area.
Legislative Approval Needed
A few steps still need to be taken for the agreement to be finalized. That includes approval from the New York State Legislature authorizing the Hochul Administration to enter into the compact.
Friday is the final day of the 2023 session, and sources have told NYCasinos.com they expect lawmakers to take up the matter during what is expected to be a lengthy session. If not, legislators would need to come back for a special session to do that.
After that, the U.S. Interior Department must review and approve the agreement.
The Seneca Nation operates Class III casinos for gaming and retail New York sports betting in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Salamanca. Tribal leaders say the casinos employ more than 5,000 people in the region and provide an economic impact of more than $1 billion annually.
New Era for the Seneca Nation and New York?
The relationship between the Seneca Nation and the state has been strained for several years as the two sides disagreed on the revenue share for the final seven years of the current deal.
That disagreement led to a lengthy legal case, ultimately leading to the federal courts ruling in the state’s favor. However, the hundreds of millions of dollars remained tied up in an escrow account as federal officials raised concerns about whether the revenue payments were appropriate.
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the federal law overseeing tribal gaming in the U.S., requires the tribes to be the primary beneficiary of any gaming on their lands.
Ultimately, the Hochul Administration sought to freeze Seneca accounts last year, which led to the tribal nation releasing more than $560 million to the state.
At that time, then-Seneca President Matthew Pagels said the nation would seek a fair deal from the state, which he said had backtracked on some issues, like the nation's exclusivity on gaming in the region.
Armstrong reiterated that in this week’s statement.
“Throughout months of negotiation, our focus remained on arriving at a fair deal that secured the future of our gaming operations, the vital funding our operations provide for critical services for our people, and the significant jobs and economic benefits they generate in Western New York,” Armstrong said. “We made it clear that we would not settle for anything less.”
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