Seneca Nation and New York State Agree on Casino Gaming Compact

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The Seneca Nation has reached an agreement in principle on a new 20-year compact with New York State officials, it announced on Wednesday.

The agreement will allow the federally recognized tribe to continue operating its three casinos in Upstate New York.

The existing deal, signed in 2002, was set to expire this December. The terms of the new deal have yet to be released, potentially because some clauses are still under discussion.

The Seneca Nation has invested nearly $2 billion at its three casinos in Buffalo, Salamanca, and Niagara Falls, and employs more than 3,000 people.

However, its relationships with New York politicians have been fractured in recent years. So both parties are clearly happy to have reached a new agreement for now.

“We celebrate the agreement in principle for what it means for our shared future,” Seneca Nation President Ricket Armstrong Sr said.

Related: The best online casinos for New York state players

Governor Absent

One notable New York figure who gave no direct input on the new compact discussions was New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D).

Hochul withdrew from the negotiations because her husband holds various senior roles at one of Seneca’s rival gambling operators in the region.

William Hochul is senior vice president, secretary, and general counsel at Delaware North, which operates two limited “racinos” close to Seneca Nation land.

The tribe has therefore accused her of having a vested interest in the issue in the past in this and other disputes.,

When Hochul took office in 2021, the Seneca Nation and New York state were in a long-running argument over slot machine tax payments.

The Seneca stopped paying the 25% annual tax in 2017, claiming the 2002 compact had already expired. However, the state disputed this, and a five-year legal battle ensued.

The Nation was awaiting an opinion from the National Indian Gaming Commission on a federal court judgment ordering them to pay up to the state when Hochul took over as a governor.

By 2022, she decided enough was enough, and ordered a freeze on the tribe’s banking assets.

Eventually, the Seneca Nation relented and paid $565 million in backdated taxes. However, protests and general discontent have continued among the tribe’s members.

Historic Agreement

Given all that recent history, Seneca President Armstrong used no mixed language about the new deal.

“Negotiating a fair Compact was critical to the future of the Seneca Nation and the future of Western New York,” he said.

“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.”

The necessary approvals Armstrong referred to include a referendum vote from the Seneca people and a review from the U.S Department of Interior.

Governor Hochul will also have to sign off on the deal, but she is expected to play ball.

New York State is “pleased to have reached an agreement in principle on a fair compact … that will serve the interests of both parties and benefit Western New York communities,” said a spokesperson for the Governor’s office.

All parties may also be relieved this deal is looking closer to completion, as New York state gets ready to issue three new downstate casino licenses later this year.

Various international gambling operators and billionaire investors are in the race to open a casino closer to or in New York City, including Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, and Bally’s, among others.

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