Seneca Nation President ‘Disappointed’ With State Gaming Compact Negotiations

Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong Jr. on Friday publicly declared his frustration in negotiating a new Class III gaming compact with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D).

Seneca Nation compact New York
Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong Sr. says he’s “disappointed” with the slow progress in reaching a new Class III gaming compact with New York officials. The tribe’s casino revenue-sharing agreement expired in December 2022. (Image: Seneca Nation Media)

On Friday, the Seneca tribe commemorated its Buffalo Treaty of 1842, which restored the Native American group’s possession of its claimed Indian lands in Western New York’s Allegany and Cattaraugus regions. The treaty secured the Senecas’ footprint in the state after tribal opponents sought to take the land and relocate the tribe to what is today Kansas.

Broken treaties, unkept promises, manipulation, and fraud toward Native people, and continued attempts to remove us — from our lands and society in general — are common throughout the history of the United States,” Armstrong declared during the event. “Those chapters have been written many times over.”

Armstrong says the tribe is amid yet another dark chapter in its perpetual fight for economic sovereignty. The tribal leader says negotiations continue to move slowly with the governor’s office.

The Seneca Nation owns and operates three resort casinos in upstate New York, including Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino, Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino, and Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino.

Seneca President ‘Disappointed’

The Seneca Nation’s Class III gaming compact with New York that allows the tribe to operate Las Vegas-style slot machines, live dealer table games, and sports betting at its upstate casinos expired in 2022. Hochul and the tribe have since extended the revenue-sharing agreement that provides the state with 25% of the tribe’s slot machine revenue.

The tribe is seeking to reduce the slot allocation and possibly gain a concession to build a fourth casino resort. The tribe maintains a monopoly on slots and live dealer table games west of State Route 14.

To tell you the truth, I’m a little disappointed at the progress [of the compact negotiations],” Armstrong told NBC2. “I had assumed a while back that we’d be further along than we are.”

Next month will mark a year since Hochul’s office and the Seneca Nation made the surprise announcement that a new 20-year compact had been reached. However, a condition allowing the tribe to pursue a casino resort development in Rochester caused plenty of pushback from local and state leaders, which led to the agreement stalling during the approval proceedings in the state Assembly.

Hochul wasn’t directly involved in negotiating that deal, as her husband at the time remained employed by a direct competitor of the tribe, Delaware North. Bill Hochul has since resigned as executive vice president and general counsel at the company that operates the Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack property in Farmington. Finger Lakes offers slot-like video lottery terminals.

State Dragging Process?

Hochul is directly participating in the ongoing Seneca Nation compact talks. Some say she has little reason to expedite the process, as the new revenue-sharing agreement will likely include a lower slot share.

“It behooves the governor to drag her feet on a new compact because it’s likely going to mean less revenue,” state Sen. George Borrello (R-Allegany).

Borrello represents a considerable portion of the Seneca’s territory and supports a reduced slot share, as the gaming landscape continues to change in New York. Along with online sports gambling beginning in January 2022, the state is expected to next year issue downstate casino licenses. Four commercial upstate casinos east of State Route 14 were authorized in 2013.

“The Seneca Nation employs thousands of people in Western New York and has a large economic impact,” Borrello said in March. “They deserve a fair compact that is in line with the dramatic changes to gaming that’s happened in the last few years.”

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