Cautious Statement From Senecas On Gaming (Updated)

Seneca Nation of Indians President Robert Odawi Porter suggested in a statement today that a resolution can be had with the state when it comes to expanding casino gaming in New York.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed the expansion in his broad economic agenda outlined Sunday afternoon, but such a move would take a constitutional amendment, a time-consuming process that includes approval of two separate sessions of the Legislature.

Table-top gaming for the state’s American Indian tribes is a cash cow and major source of employment.

An expansion would likely lead to a casino built in the Catskills region, a 2-hour driving time from New York City and its suburbs.

New York has had strained relations with the Indian nations over the past several years after a plan to tax tobacco products sold on reservations went into effect.

Here’s Porter’s statement.

“In his comments Sunday, Gov. Cuomo acknowledged the reality that New York already has gambling. The Seneca Nation, with three destination properties, will continue to be part of this discussion. Working with the state since 2002, the Nation invested $900 million in three casinos and created thousands of jobs that have a significant economic multiplier effect.”
“Let’s keep the big picture in focus: Seneca gaming works and right now it’s the only gambling mechanism that provides economic benefits to the state and its people, and will continue to for years before any amendment might be put to a vote.”
“New Yorkers have every right to discuss expanded gaming outside our exclusivity zone. As a business partner with the state, we disagree over racino in our zone. But the issue of the state breaching Seneca exclusivity will be arbitrated and resolved. In the meantime and the future, the Nation will continue to be a leader in this area of economic development.”

Update: New York Gaming Association President James Featherstonhaugh issued a more update assessment of the proposal.

“We are pleased to hear of Governor Cuomo’s support for legalizing enhanced commercial gaming in New York State, which will create tens of thousands of much-needed jobs, generate hundreds of millions in additional state revenues and stimulate significant private sector investment. We look forward to working with the Governor to implement these changes in a focused and socially responsible manner.”

Griffo: Roll Dice On Casinos, Let Voters Decide

As the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering meets in Albany today, Sen. Joe Griffo, R-Rome, reiterated his call for a constitutional amendment for casino gambling.

“Nationally, we’ve seen that the number of states that have commercial gambling casinos continues to grow – some states are looking to approve new measures to allow or expand it. The explosion of internet-based gambling outlets has also sparked conversation over what kinds of gaming is poised for growth and which kinds are due to struggle.”

Griffo is the sponsor of Senate legislation that would pave the way for a constitutional amendment, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last month he would consider backing.

Construction of non-Indian casinos could be complicated, however, by concerns raisesd by the Seneca Nation of Indians on Tuesday.

Nation President Bob Porter said the state was failing to comply with a 2002 gaming accord that gives them exclusivity rights to casino built in western New York.

Porter also opened the door to the possibility of building a casino in Rochester.

Any casino amendment would be bitterly opposed by Indian nations, who have derived millions of dollars in revenue from the operation of the gaming facilities in the last several decades.

The Seneca Nation operates three casinos in western New York. It’s notable that the Senecas were the only Indian nation not to release a statement condemning Cuomo’s talk about the possibility of a constitutional amendment.

Any change to the state’s constitution must be decided by two different sessions of the Legislature and approved by voters — a lengthy process that often takes years to accomplish.

This isn’t Griffo’s first foray into finding alternative sources of revenue for the state and local governments. He is also the prime backer of allowing mixed-martial arts in New York, a measure that failed this spring despite a strong push from the industry.


Senecas Call On State To Recognize 2002 Agreement

Seneca Nation of Indians President Robert Porter today called on the state to recognize a nine-year-old gaming accord that they say gave the nation the exclusive right to operate casinos in western New York.

“We strongly believe that allowing commercial gaming interests to operate in the areas of Western New York where the Seneca Nation has gaming exclusivity will undermine the economic stability of the region, and actually result in a net negative impact on the people and communities of Western New York,” Porter said.

Porter testified in Canandaigua, Ontario County, before the Senate Committee on Racing, Wagering and Gaming. The Senecas say they’re holding $310 million in escrow in payments due to the state after paying nearly a half billion to Albany.

The Senecas operate two casinos, including one under construction in Buffalo. Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month said he would be open to a constitutional amendment that would allow for non-Indian gaming in New York.

Notably the Senecas did not issue a statement decrying the governor’s statement.