Speaker says NYS Assembly won't take up casino compact on Tuesday; Seneca Nation president responds
The speaker of the New York State Assembly is not expecting a proposed new gaming compact to come up before his members when they reconvene in Albany Tuesday to finish out the current legislative session.
Opponents of a proposed casino in the Rochester area rallied downtown at the Liberty Pole on Friday. They included members of the clergy, activists, state lawmakers and union and business representatives.
The protest was sparked by the recent discussion about a new gaming compact for the Seneca Nation, which referred to the possibility of a casino in the Rochester area.
Kirsten John Foy is an activist who heads up the Arc of Justice, a social, economic, and environmental justice advocacy organization.
He, like many of the opponents of the proposed casino who have spoken out in recent days, criticized the governor’s office and others who he said kept quiet about closed door negotiations with the Seneca Nation.
“Where there’s no accountability, where there’s no transparency, where there’s no inclusivity…not here, not today, not ever,” Foy told the crowd.
David Brown is president of the Finger Lakes Horseman’s Association. He’s worried about the impact another casino in the area would have at Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack in Farmington.
“Finger Lakes cannot survive as a racetrack with the decrease in revenue that this would cause, there’s no way it’s sustainable, so if this casino comes in, you can say goodbye to all these jobs,” warned Brown.
During the rally, local Assemblymember Demond Meeks said that what bothers him and other critics of this proposal is the fact it was negotiated in secret.
“Our gripe as elected officials who happen to be Democrats, is not with Seneca Nation, they have no allegiance to us,” said Meeks. “Our gripe is with our Democratic governor, who we supported, who we elected to represent the issues and concerns of our communities.”
Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong, Sr. released a statement Friday night, saying that "the Executive Chamber’s non-committal approach” and the Assembly’s decision “to place special interests over the benefits of this historic agreement at the eleventh hour is despicable.”
Armstrong said that the governor’s office spent nearly a year negotiating an agreement and that contrary to media reports, the parties never entered into a non-disclosure agreement that would have prevented the governor’s office from negotiating with other state officials.
Armstrong also said that for more than 20 years, the Seneca Nation’s gaming operations have generated billions of dollars for the state and he implored the Assembly to ratify the new compact. The statement from the Seneca Nation said that not bringing the compact up for a vote throws 5,000 Western New York jobs "into peril," and the Nation said that it "will not sit idly by while the State once again fails its obligations to Native Nations."
A spokesperson for Gov. Hochul issued this response in reaction to Armstrong's statement:
“Administration staff is working with the Seneca Nation of Indians and the legislature to make sure we have an agreement that is fair, serves the interests of all parties, and addresses the needs of key stakeholders.”
Rochester area Assemblymember Harry Bronson said last week that because the current compact with the Seneca Nation does not expire until December, there is more time to work through details of a new compact.
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