Western New York

Sports Betting At Seneca Casinos Expected Before Year’s End

From the Morning Memo:

The Seneca Nation of Indians said it expects to have sports betting facilities up and running at its three Western New York facilities before the end of the year.

A spokesperson said the sportsbooks at the Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Salamanca casinos are all in “various stages of construction” and there are no specific opening dates yet. The State Gaming Commission officially set regulations in June for sports betting.

Across the state, most Indian run casinos as well as the four non-Indian commercially run casinos hurried to open their facilities. However, the Senecas have been taking their time.

They will likely miss out on most or all of the National Football League season but should be ready for the playoffs which start in early January. The Super Bowl is the most popular gambling event in American sports.

The Senecas also announced Monday it will be the “exclusive sportsbook for the Buffalo Sabres” hockey team. It announced a similar partnership with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, who have the same ownership, earlier this year

“We are so excited to further expand our partnership with Pegula Sports & Entertainment by becoming the Exclusive Sportsbook Partner of the Buffalo Sabres,” said Melissa Free, Seneca Gaming Corporation’s senior vice president of marketing. “Sportsbook will bring so much more excitement to the fans and Seneca Resorts & Casinos is thrilled to be in the epicenter of all that energy.”

The Senecas said once the facilities are open, fans will be able to bet on “professional football, hockey, basketball, soccer and more with real time odds boards and betting kiosks available 24 hours, 7 days a week.”

Hochul Joins Chorus Calling On MLB To Leave NY Baseball Alone

From the Morning Memo:

From a governmental standpoint, there is not much lawmakers at any level can do about a proposed plan to contract Major League Baseball’s minor league system – that doesn’t mean they’re not trying.

The 30 big league teams and 160 minor league organizations have an agreement that governs their structure and expires at the end of 2020. The new proposal would eliminate affiliations for four New York state teams in 2021.

However, Sen. Chuck Schumer has vowed to speak directly to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, an Upstater himself, about changing that plan. Republican Rep. John Katko co-signed a letter with a bi-partisan group of members of Congress to “highlight  the importance of Minor League clubs.”

And Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul is appealing to MLB as well.

“We’re saying please don’t do this,” she said. “Take  your considerations elsewhere but leave New York State, the home of baseball, alone.”

The LG noted baseball’s rich history in the state. It’s founder Abner Doubleday was born in New York and one of the teams in peril, the Auburn Doubledays, is named after him. Of course, the Baseball Hall of Fame is also in Cooperstown, NY.

Hochul said she is voicing her distress not just as an elected official but as a fan of minor league baseball and the Batavia Muckdogs – another team in danger of losing its affiliation.

“If you’re in Batavia or anywhere nearby, you love the Muckdogs. I’ve been to many of their games. I’ve thrown out opening pitches. My husband and I slip in there at least once or twice a year to catch a game so it’s part of the identity of the community and especially these small towns, I mean Batavia has a lot going for it but part of it is being associated with a minor league baseball team,” she said.

Hochul said potentially losing these minor league teams would be detrimental to the community from a cultural and economic standpoint.

AG James ‘Confident’ In Defense Of Green Light Law

Attorney General Tish James says she’s confident her office will be successful in defending New York State’s new Green Light law.

Erie, Niagara and Rensselaer counties have all brought similar challenges to the law which grants driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. Litigation for the Erie County case is already underway.

Earlier this month, a federal judge heard oral arguments in Buffalo.

“Given the fact that there are 12 states plus the District of Columbia that have similar laws and because we are a sovereign state and we have responsibility over the safety of our laws and the rules of the road, we believe we will be victorious in the end,” James said.

Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns argued the law puts him in a situation in which he either faces the threat of federal prosecution for harboring “illegal immigrants” or the governor removing him from office if he chooses not to process the licenses. Kearns has been clear, regardless of the outcome of this case, he will not follow the Green Light law.

James, in Buffalo for an unrelated press conference, seemed unimpressed.

“I’ve read his papers and I cannot sympathize with his position and I look forward to having that case dismissed,” James said.

The judge said she planned to issue a decision around mid-November. She could rule on whether to throw out the case as the AG’s office has asked and whether to grant an injunction, halting implementation of the law until it’s fully litigated. The law is supposed to go into effect next month.

NY-57: Morgan Secures Influential Endorsements

From the Morning Memo:

The Democratic candidate for New York’s 57th State Senate District secured two major endorsements Thursday.

Austin Morgan reported he has the support of state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Senate Transportation Chairman Tim Kennedy, both Democrats.

“As a New York State Senator, Austin will be a tireless advocate for the residents of Western New York, putting families and the local community first,” DiNapoli said.

Morgan is running for the seat vacated by influential Republican Cathy Young. Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello is the GOP candidate.

Borrello has made the state of the Thruway through the Seneca Nation’s Cattaraugus territory a major part of his candidacy.

The county executive stood with Congressman Reed during several press conferences calling for the governor to fix the road. Morgan said he has an influential friend when it comes to that issue too though.

“I am honored to have Senator Kennedy’s endorsement in this race. As a man who came from humble roots and worked tirelessly to advocate on behalf of his community, he knows well the struggles and triumphs of being an everyday man representing everyday Western New Yorkers,” Morgan said.

“In the new Democratic Majority, Senator Kennedy is the only representative West of Syracuse, and often says it would be nice to have some other voices at the table who know what Western New Yorkers need. He knows that Austin Morgan is someone who will advocate for our region, be a strong voice for our families, and deliver the legislation and funding that will help us build a brighter future.”

The special election to fill Young’s seat is Tuesday.

Zellner Believes Hearings Aren’t Accurate Portrayal Of Public’s Fusion Feelings

From the Morning Memo:

Opposing fusion voting at New York Public Campaign Financing Commission hearings has often been a lonely stance to take.

Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman Jeremy Zellner found himself a bit outnumbered at Tuesday’s hearing in Buffalo. The majority of people who spoke to the commission about fusion – the process by which candidates can run on multiple party lines and aggregate votes – urged them to protect it.

Zellner, who has a been a vocal critic for some time, was even shouted at by a member of the audience near the end of his testimony. He brushed the opposition off as minor party activists.

“I think you had a lot of people here who were trying to protect their little corner of the world,” he said.

From a political standpoint, the chairman said he opposes the undue influence given to minor parties through fusion. He said while some parties do things the “right way” others do not even have a procedure to make their endorsements.

As the Erie Democratic Elections Commissioner as well, he said fusion is expensive, creates extensive litigation and makes elections confusing.

“People want a choice and fusion voting takes away that choice. By cross-endorsing candidates, it clutters up our ballots,” Zellner said. “It is just a mess.”

While he wouldn’t concede he was in the minority on fusion at the hearing Tuesday, he said he believes many more people in the general public agree with his opinion.

“Just because somebody can get here at 11 o’clock on a Tuesday morning doesn’t mean that they’re the majority voice,” Zellner said. “I think there’s a lot of people if this thing was polled that are against this.”

The commission is required to make its recommendations by December 1 and they become binding if the Legislature doesn’t reconvene to reject them before the end of the year.

Food Truck Feeling Heat After Setting Up Shop At ICE Facility

A popular Western New York food truck has found itself in the middle of an immigration debate.

After Lloyd Taco Truck served lunch Wednesday at a federal detention center in Batavia, a number of people criticized the business for setting up shop at a facility where undocumented immigrants are held in custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Lloyd quickly issued an apology, calling the decision an “honest mistake.”

It said it received a request a few weeks ago to serve at the prison and processed the request using “standard intake procedure.” Lloyd said the procedure usually helps the business make decisions it’s proud of but not in this case.

“Lloyd has deep ties to the immigrant and refugee communities in Buffalo,” the company said in the statement.

It said it works closely with organizations that serve immigrants in the business’s hiring and recruiting processes. Lloyd promised to donate Wednesday’s sales to Justice for Migrant Families WNY.

“There is no excuse for what happened and we have already begun to update our internal procedures to ensure future truck stops and events align with our company’s values,” it wrote.

However, the statement seemed to spawn just as much backlash. Many people argued the company should not be apologizing for serving federal employees who have nothing to do with policy.

Among the critics of the apology was Republican state senator and congressional candidate Rob Ortt.

“In what world does a company feel the need to apologize for serving food to federal law enforcement officers who work in dangerous conditions? Pathetic pandering. The men and women who work to enforce our immigration laws and protect us deserve better,” he said in a statement.

Lloyd is one of Buffalo’s most prominent and longest running food trucks. The company also owns two brick and motor restaurants and an ice cream shop.

Thruway Authority Reaches Deal With Ontario To Send Cashless Toll Bills To Motorists

Motorists from the Canadian province of Ontario will no longer be able to get a free ride when driving on New York highways where cashless tolling is in place.

The NYS Thruway Authority announced Thursday it reached an agreement with the Ontario government to access the addresses of residents. It can now mail them bills after they travel in the state.

New York is working to implement cashless tolling along Interstate 90 and payments still currently need to be made through EZ Pass or at the booths. However, the technology is already live at the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge in New York City, fixed-price toll barriers in the lower Hudson Valley, and the Grand Island bridges in Western New York.

The inability to send bills to Canadian drivers had become especially apparent in WNY as many drivers travel the Grand Island bridges after crossing the borders at Buffalo, Lewiston and Niagara Falls.

“The Thruway in Western New York is a gateway for Canadians and New York motorists who frequently travel between our two countries,” Thruway Authority Executive Director Matt Driscoll said. “We thank the Ontario Ministry of Transportation for their cooperation in establishing this important agreement. Ontario motorists who travel over the Grand Island Bridges have numerous options to pay their tolls and this agreement enables all drivers who travel through a cashless tolling facility on the Thruway to receive a bill in the mail.”

The state said EZ Pass remains the easiest way to use cashless tolling but for those who don’t have it, the technology scans license plates. NYSTA then sends the bill to those drivers.

New York has maintained Canadians were responsible for the bills but to this point had no access to follow up. The agreement goes into effect Friday.

The entire state is scheduled to go cashless by the end of 2020.

Economist Says GM Tentative Deal Is Good News For WNY Economy

From the Morning Memo:

If a tentative deal between United Auto Workers and General Motors comes to fruition, it could have a far-reaching impact in Western New York.

Roughly 3,000 employees from the region’s Tonawanda and Lockport plants have been out of work for more than a month now. SUNY Buffalo State economist Fred Floss estimated that could amount to as much as $15 million that didn’t enter the local economy over that time.

“Every sector is interrelated to every other sector in the economy so when one sector gets hurt, all these other sectors are going to be hurt as well,” he said. “So it’s going to take probably a good six months to a year for us to recover and all of this to get back to normal.”

The details of the four-year deal were not released but GM’s latest offer included wage increases, lump-sum payment, health insurance and promises of a path to full-time work for temporary workers.

Floss said gaining those new full-time workers will be a “very good” thing that helps Buffalo in the long-term. He said if the contract avoids major healthcare cutbacks, that will be a big win for the area’s large hospital systems too.

As for immediate impacts, his expectations are a little more tempered.

“I suspect that most of these workers, at least in the near term, are going to be pretty slow in going out and spending money,” Floss said.

The economist said workers likely started cutting back on things like going out to restaurants or back-to-school shopping. Even if they get backpay in lump sums, he expects a lot of that money will go toward bills.

For now, the strikes are ongoing but union members reportedly could return to work as soon as the end of this week.

Giambra Makes Case For Flavored Vapes Ahead Of Hearing

Former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra has represented a lot of different interest groups over his years in politics.

The latest cause on Giambra’s agenda is fighting for New York to continue to allow flavors for e-cigarettes. He said this issue, in particular, is important to him as a survivor of cancer related to smoking tobacco.

“I tried the patch. I tried the gum. I tried everything. I didn’t work. The only thing that helped me was 14 hours of surgery and six weeks of radiation which I hope no one has to go through,” he said.

Giambra, who is representing Buffalo-area wholesaler Demand Vapes, said vaping products are the most effective way for people to quit cigarettes. He also said he believes vaping is 95 percent safer than “combustible tobacco.”

There is a hearing scheduled Friday in Albany to discuss the state’s attempted emergency ban of flavored vaping products. Giambra said a recent Michigan ruling striking down a similar ban was good news for the industry.

He said the NY court could make a decision as soon as Friday.

“Our arguments are very similar to the arguments that were used in Michigan so our hope is that the courts here will see the verdict in Michigan and understand better that you have to find the balance,” he said.

Giambra said he understands the state does not want children to use e-cigarettes but argues the answer is not to withhold the products from adults.

“We’re looking for balance,” he said. “Our hope is that we can convince the governor and the state Legislature that the best way to deal with this problem is not prohibition.”

He said if the court rules in favor of allowing flavored e-cigarettes, the industry is committed to working with the state Legislature and the governor’s office on reasonable legislation and restrictions.

He said that could include banning some flavors that are obviously marketed to children and restricting advertising to mediums in which adults are clearly the target audience.

NY To Sue IJC Over Lake Ontario Flooding

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-NY, has directed the state Department of Environmental Conservation to sue the International Joint Commission for mismanagement of Lake Ontario water levels.

The state contends the IJC failed to respond appropriately to record high lake levels in 2017 and 2019 which exacerbated flood damage to residences and businesses. Cuomo said the state suffered more than $4 million in property damage that it has still been unable to fully repair and the IJC should be responsible for damages.

The governor said the body’s failure to act compelled the action.

“We have pleaded with the IJC to attend to the New York side of the issue. We have sent numerous pieces of correspondence. There have been meetings. There have been dialogues. There have been phone calls. The congressman (Joe Morelle) has been meeting with them. All sorts of officials have been meeting with the IJC. They have been wholly unresponsive and have taken no actions that has made the situation any better,” he said during a Wednesday announcement in Rochester.

In a June press conference, Cuomo indicated the state was looking into legal action. He gave Republican state Senator Rob Ortt credit for the idea.

Ortt, who is now running for Congress, was conspicuously missing from the executive press release Wednesday. The state senator did release his own statement though.

“Today’s announcement that New York State would be suing the International Joint Commission for damages caused by flooding connected to Plan 2014 is long overdue,” he said. “Although the Attorney General’s office declined to act on my proposal to sue the federal government for damages caused by Lake Ontario’s flooding back in May, I am pleased to see they have had a change of heart and will now seek financial compensation for the residents, localities, and businesses along the lake’s shores.”

Specifically the complain asserts the IJC was negligent in breaching its duty to protect the interest of New York property owners. It also claims the mismanagement was a nuisance because the body “should have been substantially certain that its conduct would cause an invasion of the State’s interest in the use and enjoyment of its land.”

Finally the state said the failure of IJC to increase outflows constituted trespassing or an invasion of NY property.