Deadline Approaches for Negotiating New Seneca Casino Agreement

The clock is ticking for New York and the Seneca Nation as they work to reach an agreement allowing casino operations to continue at three Seneca-owned facilities in Western New York. The original Seneca Nation Compact, reached in 2002, is set to expire in about five weeks, on Dec. 9, and negotiations for a new compact have stalled.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration officials did not deny that a potential Rochester casino was part of a deal with the Seneca Nation. However, the Assembly refused to pass the bill authorizing Hochul to enter into a new compact on Saturday.

Even if a new deal is struck, there are several time-consuming steps that need to be taken before the agreement is finalized. First, Hochul would have to call a special session in Albany for the State Legislature to pass legislation authorizing the new compact. The Seneca Nation would also need to hold a referendum for its members to approve the deal, and the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs would have to review the agreement, a process that can take up to 45 days.

One possibility is that New York State and the Seneca Nation will agree to an extension of the current compact’s terms. Under federal regulations, a time extension is allowed to give the parties time to finish negotiating, as long as the other terms remain the same.

Seneca President Rickey Armstrong Jr. expressed optimism that an extension would be granted to allow for negotiations to be completed.

If a new compact agreement is reached, it would require approval from the State Legislature. The administration has not commented on whether the Legislature would need to approve a temporary extension.

Under federal law, full-scale casino gaming is allowed on Native American lands when a Tribal-State compact “is in effect.” Even if an extension were not reached, it is unlikely that the Seneca Nation would have to shut its casinos on Dec. 10.

In the meantime, the Seneca Nation’s desires for a new compact are at odds with those of the state. Negotiations have been challenging, with the state seeking a higher revenue sharing rate in exchange for allowing the Senecas to build a fourth casino in the Rochester market.

However, without the assurance of a Rochester casino, the Nation is pursuing a far lower rate in negotiations. For now, the nation has expressed reluctance to accept an extension of the current agreement for an extended period of time.

The Legislature will have to return to Albany at some point to pass a bill authorizing Hochul to enter a new compact. However, the New York lawmakers are likely to demand that details of a deal be disclosed before they take any action.