Time Is Running Out for Seneca Tribe's New York Gaming Compact

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As the gaming compact between New York State and the Seneca Nation approaches its expiration date on December 9, both parties find themselves entangled in negotiations, with significant uncertainties surrounding the terms of a potential new agreement. The current compact, established in 2002, has been the framework governing the relationship between the state and the Seneca Nation in operating three non-tribal casinos in Western New York.

Still at Odds

Negotiations for a renewed compact have hit an impasse, with the state and the Seneca Nation holding differing views on the terms of the new agreement. Even if an agreement were reached today, the timeline for implementing a new compact presents a formidable challenge.

Related: Casino Plans for Rochester, NY, Scrapped amid Tribal Compact Talks

The State Legislature would need to convene a special session to approve the language, a process requiring new legislation. Furthermore, the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs would be required to greenlight the compact, a procedure that could extend up to 45 days.

The Seneca Nation, however, remains optimistic about avoiding a shutdown of its casinos despite the looming deadline. In the event that negotiations continue without a finalized agreement, an extension of the current compact is a possibility, provided no terms are altered during the process.

To maintain operational continuity, the Seneca Nation has steps it can take. In the absence of a renewed compact, the Nation would place the funds it would have paid under the existing agreement into an escrow account, despite the potential lack of a legal obligation to make such payments.

The Seneca Nation Holds the Cards

This strategic move aims to demonstrate the Nation's commitment to fulfilling its financial responsibilities, even in the absence of a formal agreement. However, as the tribe has shown in the past, it is willing to cut off payments in an effort to force the state to give in and agree to some of its demands.

In the event that the state seeks an injunction to force a shutdown and enforce payment under the existing compact, legal experts suggest that obtaining such an order would be challenging. The significant impact on the tribe and the local community, coupled with the potential economic fallout, makes it unlikely that a judge would rule in favor of such drastic measures.

As the December 9 deadline approaches, the gaming compact negotiations between New York State and the Seneca Nation remain in a delicate state. The outcome will not only impact the operations of the Seneca Nation's casinos but also have broader implications for the relationship between the state and native tribes engaged in gaming compacts.

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