BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The current gaming compact between New York state and the Seneca Nation expires in December.
The Senecas said parties have been meeting roughly bi-weekly since August. State Sen. George Borrello, a Republican from Sunset Bay, is not in the room but has a vested interest.
"I'm just not hearing good things about the compact negotiation," Borrello said.
His Southern Tier district surrounds Seneca territory, including its Allegany casino. Borrello said the state Legislature will likely need to vote on an agreement before the end of session next month.
"While I know we call special sessions for highly politically-charged events, we don't necessarily do it for things that are important to people like the Senecas," he said.
Seneca business owner and activist J.C. Seneca said state Legislature approval isn't the only reason negotiations must move quickly. He said the Nation must also get the deal approved by a majority referendum vote of its citizens.
"Those things take time and so we have to make sure that our people know what's in this compact, they're okay with it and that then we can push it forward and then the federal government also has to have a review process," Seneca said.
Federal law requires a compact in order for the Senecas to continue to operate their three casinos in Salamanca, Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Revenue from the operation is crucial for the tribal government to provide services but Seneca says the casinos are important to the entire region, employing thousands of people, paying vendors and promoting tourism.
He's launched a website, WNYFairCompact.com, and is sending a petition and letter to the governor and Legislature and is planning a rally.
"This compact is important to Western New York, the home of the governor. She's from Western New York. You think it would be on her priority list to be able to find a way to be able to get the job done," Seneca said.
The Nation said the governor recused herself from direct negotiations because her husband works for Seneca Gaming competitor Delaware North. A spokesperson for the president said while negotiations have been happening in some form for nearly a year, last week was the first time the state's designated principle negotiators met with them.
The statement continued that it is beyond time the state bring adequate "urgency and reason" to the table.
Gov. Hochul's office released a statement, saying "staff at the Executive Chamber and Gaming Commission have been having substantive negotiations with the Seneca Nation for months. We are fully committed to continuing to meet, discuss, and negotiate a compact, and we are confident that the process will continue in a way that best serves New Yorkers."
J.C. Seneca's rally is planned for Thursday at 11:30 a.m. in the lot adjacent to the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino. The organizer said everybody is welcome to participate.