Seneca Nation Scolds Gov. for Not Communicating Casino Talks

Seneca Nation Scolds Gov. for Not Communicating Casino Talks

Posted on: June 18, 2023, 09:01h. 

Last updated on: June 18, 2023, 09:01h.

The Seneca Nation came out arms swinging Friday with a statement in response to numerous state lawmakers and local officials in Rochester lambasting New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) office for her seemingly backroom negotiations with the tribe regarding a new gaming compact.

Seneca Nation New York casino Kathy Hochul
Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong Sr. is blaming New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office for not communicating the state’s intent to allow a tribal casino in Rochester. The backroom deal has caused much criticism from lawmakers and local officials representing Rochester. (Image: Seneca Media and Communications)

Earlier this month, the tribe and governor surprised much of the public by announcing that the two parties had reached an agreement in principle for a new 20-year, Class III gaming compact. But after reports surfaced that the revenue-sharing agreement for the tribe’s three Las Vegas-style casinos included a provision that could allow the nation to build a fourth full-scale casino in Rochester, many state and local leaders raised their voices in opposition to the contract.

State lawmakers representing Monroe County said they were kept in the dark about a Rochester casino being included in such tribal talks. Rochester Mayor Malik Evans (D) said Hochul’s decision not to include the city was “an issue of disrespect.”

Hochul’s office claimed her administration is legally barred from including the legislature in such tribal conferences. Hochul recused herself from the discussions, as her husband works in an executive capacity at Delaware North, a Seneca competitor in Upstate New York.

Seneca Statement

In a lengthy statement from Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong Sr., the tribe scolded Hochul’s office for the critical press.

The blame for keeping Rochester officials out of the loop lays directly at the feet of the executive,” Armstrong said in reference to Hochul. “The Nation regularly consulted our own legislative branch, and expected that the executive was doing the same.”

Armstrong said the governor’s claim that she’s legally barred from communicating the discussions with other state officials is inaccurate.

“The executive was free to communicate with local officials throughout the process, on what it was negotiating for and what it agreed to,” Armstrong continued. “The failure of the executive to communicate with its own government speaks to the utter disregard the governor had for this process.”

While tribal gaming compact negotiations are handled by the governor, the executive needs approval from the New York State Legislature to sign a new revenue-sharing agreement. The New York Senate signed off on a bill authorizing Hochul to sign the terms before the Rochester casino talks came to light. The measure has since stalled in the Assembly.

Seneca Alleges Hochul Misconduct

William Hochul’s employer, Delaware North, operates Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack in Farmington just south of Rochester. Armstrong claims that while Hochul stated publicly that she would recuse herself from the tribal talks, that didn’t actually occur and the governor instead schemed to protect her husband’s interests.

The powers behind this decision should not be ignored. We were told that Gov. Hochul recused herself, and yet, Finger Lakes Gaming, owned by Delaware North, led the charge to defeat the renewal of the Seneca Nation’s compact. Their statement opposing the compact released on Monday is proof positive. Now, the greatest beneficiary of the Nation’s expiring compact is Delaware North itself, as the company also operates Hamburg Gaming near Buffalo. Corporate executives at Delaware North will celebrate this Father’s Day weekend, thankful that the State has once again protected their interests at the expense of a Native Nation,” Armstrong declared.

Armstrong ended by saying the nation is disappointed that Hochul seems content to allow the compact to die.

“The Nation is once again reminded that Native Nations in the State of New York are secondary to corporate interests,” Armstrong concluded.

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