Seneca Nation of Indians and New York State negotiate a new gaming compact.
US.- Senator George Borrello has introduced legislation that would authorise the New York State Comptroller to review any tribal-state compact and recommend approval or changes. It comes as New York State and the Seneca Nation negotiate a replacement for the current gaming contract, which expires on December 9.
S7502 is currently in the Senate Finance Committee. Borrello, is a member of that committee. The bill does not give the comptroller the authority to revoke approval or modify the terms of a compact. Rather, it requires the state comptroller to review such documents.
The bill also directs that review to focus on four facets: whether negotiations followed proper procedures; whether any lobbying of state officials influenced the compact drafting; to what degree the compact might compromise existing tribal gaming exclusivity agreements and “any other factor the comptroller deems relevant.”
Borrello cited the need for this change by pointing to current negotiations between the Seneca Nation and governor Kathy Hochul’s administration. He noted that although Hochul has recused herself from compact negotiations because of the conflict of interest presented by her husband’s position with a company in competition with the Seneca Nation, she is still the only official that can approve the contract.
“The partnership between the Seneca Nation and New York’s Executive Branch has been strained for several years, largely over disagreements concerning revenue from Seneca casinos,” Borrello said.
“Those tensions, combined with the Governor’s institutional role in the process which makes full recusal difficult, underscore the importance of a full and impartial review by the State Comptroller. There is too much at stake, not only for the Senecas but for the state, to allow the process to be compromised by politics and conflict. This is a common-sense proposal that would improve the process and help ensure a fair outcome.”
The original Seneca Nation Compact was authorised in 2002, clearing the way for the development of three Seneca casinos in western New York. The Seneca Niagara Casino opened in 2002, followed by the Salamanca location in 2004 and the Buffalo location in 2007.
Terms of the compact included the Seneca Nation paying 25 per cent of slot and video lottery machine revenues to the state (approximately $100m a year), with a portion directed to each casino’s host city. In return, the compact grants the Nation exclusive rights to operate Class III casinos in western New York.
The Seneca Nation has been pushing to get a new compact signed before the state legislature’s session ends on June 8.