ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC)— After 20 years, negotiations for the Seneca Nation’s gaming compact are underway, and local lawmakers and figures are voicing both concerns and hopes.
The Seneca Gaming Compact with New York State, which was signed in 2002, is set to expire on December 21.
After several months of recent negotiations, the Seneca Nation announced that it has reached an agreement in principle with New York State for a new 20-year casino gaming Compact.
As negotiations progress past Senate approval, speculation about a possible casino in the city of Rochester also created more tensions regarding the deal.
Mayor Malik Evans issued a statement Monday morning regarding the possibility of a casino license in Rochester.
Rochester Mayor Malik Evans statement:
“We have heard lots of chatter about the possibility of a casino license being granted in the Rochester area. It should be noted that neither City leadership nor members of our New York State delegation has been involved in any conversations related to this possibility. Any conversation of this magnitude that does not include local stakeholders is unacceptable.“
“There are already numerous casinos in the Rochester area. My focus remains on meaningful opportunities that create a vibrant Rochester economy focused on the jobs of the 21st century.”
Monday afternoon, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello did the same.
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello statement:
“A matter as significant as the placement of a casino in Rochester should be discussed out in the open, in conversations that include members of our state Delegation and local officials. It’s deeply troubling that this community has now been placed in this position of debating an issue without knowing the full details of what has been negotiated.”
Similarly, the Rochester City Council sent a letter to the governor on Monday afternoon, addressing the speculation that New York State is in conversations with the Seneca Nation about developing a casino in downtown Rochester. All members signed the letter, opposing the speculated project as they currently understand it.
Rochester City Council letter:
Also on Monday, the Greater Rochester Area State Assembly Delegation released a statement recognizing that “Reaching a gaming compact with the Seneca Nation is important, but the process needs to be inclusive and transparent.” In the statement, they asked for a pause before bringing this bill to the floor for a vote, and are calling for “local residents, business leaders, and elected officials from the areas affected by the agreement to be brought into the process.”
Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart also submitted a memorializing resolution Tuesday, claiming that allowing a casino in Monroe County would not create “new wealth, employment, or tourism,” and cited concerns of gambling addictions in the community.
New York State Senator Jeremy Cooney voted “no” on the Seneca Nation deal. In a statement, Cooney said, “Before a state compact is made with the Seneca Nation, I believe there needs to be an opportunity for public comment and demonstrated partnership with local governments, including the City of Rochester.”
On the other hand, Chamber of Commerce Commissioner Bob Duffy tweeted his support of the compact, saying “I have always had great respect for @TheSenecaNation, They are an economic powerhouse in NYS.”
Governor Kathy Hochul was asked about the topic while at an event at the Buffalo AKG Art Museum and responded saying quote:
“I have not been able to be involved in negotiations because I’m recused from that. My team is very involved, and I know they’re waiting for support from the legislature in time to get this completed. The Assembly will have to take some action because the Senate has acted but the Assembly hasn’t, so anything else is premature at this time.”
Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong, Sr. has stated that the focus of negotiations has remained on finding a fair deal for the future of their gaming operations, as they provide vital funding for their people, along with the numerous jobs and economic benefits they generate in Western New York.
The legislation, if approved by the assembly, will be delivered to the governor for approval and will provide the governor with the authority to enter into negotiations with the Seneca Nation, and provides amendments to the tribal-state compact with the Seneca Nation.