New York Assembly Halts Casino Deal Negotiations Amidst Controversy

The New York Assembly has halted continuing discussions for a new casino deal with the Seneca Nation, citing concerns expressed by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. His most recent tweet indicated that he would abstain from voting on the bill that would allow the governor’s office to sign the proposed casino contract.

The decision by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie came after the Monroe County delegation expressed concerns about the plan to open a new casino as part of the arrangement. Concerns about prospective job losses in the unionized employees exacerbated the situation. The Seneca Nation had stated just days before Heastie’s statement that they had virtually achieved a 20-year arrangement with the state.

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Following Heastie’s tweet, Seneca Chairman Rickey Armstrong issued a blistering statement directed at Governor Kathy Hochul. Armstrong revealed that the Seneca Nation had met with Rochester politicians, who were disappointed that they had not been notified about the potential casino plans in Monroe County. Lawmakers claimed that non-disclosure agreements with the executive office precluded them from participating in conversations, but Armstrong denied the existence of such agreements.

He accused the governor of miscommunication and chastised her choice to halt the contract. Hochul’s husband works for Seneca Gaming’s competitor, Delaware North, prompting concerns about potential conflicts of interest. Armstrong contended that Delaware North’s interests might have an impact on the outcome, especially given the company’s Finger Lakes Gaming operation was among those opposed to the Rochester casino.

According to reports, the framework agreement called for a reduction in the percentage of slot machine earnings provided to communities with casinos, from 25% to 9.75% in the first year, rising to 19.5% for the term. These percentages, however, were subject to further talks in order to account for potential increased revenue from the Rochester Casino. A short-term contract extension was also on the table, but it required both sides’ unanimous approval.

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The situation remains complicated, and lawmakers and stakeholders will have to traverse a number of concerns and considerations in order to establish a viable settlement and preserve transparency throughout the process.

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