The renewal of the Seneca Nation's gaming compact with New York remains up in the air less than a week before the Democratic-led state Assembly is returning to Albany to consider the legislation.
Though approved last week in the state Senate, final approval over the agreement has been in doubt after Rochester-area lawmakers raised concerns over the potential of a casino being built in the city's downtown.
No casino has been formally proposed and the language in the gaming compact renewal does not include one. But the prospect of a casino has led to Rochester lawmakers raising deep concerns over the legislation.
Any casino in downtown Rochester would be within easy driving distance of the del Lago Resort and Casino in the Finger Lakes. Workers there are members of the politically crucial Hotel Trades Council. A Seneca-run casino in Rochester would have labor protections for workers as stipulated by the gaming compact, but does not include guarantees for labor union representation.
The issue has lit up Assembly text chains over the last week as lawmakers prepare to return next Tuesday and Wednesday to consider legislation that could include the gaming compact's renewal. Some lawmakers have privately questioned the need to come back to Albany at all, though a range of local-level bills important to legislators' home districts are also under consideration.
Rochester-area lawmakers met with representatives of the governor's office on Wednesday to discuss the increasingly thorny issue.
"We feel very strongly that any potential agreement between the State and the Seneca Nation must be made with full transparency of all relevant information, and include the input of our community," the lawmakers said in a statement. "More information is expected from the governor’s office."
For now, Assembly lawmakers have signaled they want to be deferential to the concerns of their colleagues in the Rochester area.
"Those type of compacts, there always has be a high level of negotiation with non-disclosure," said Assemblyman John McDonald. "But I think everybody now would say maybe a member or two from the Rochester delegation should have been included in the negotiations."
He added, "It makes it difficult to put that genie back in the bottle to be honest with you."
Gov. Kathy Hochul has recused herself from the discussions. Her husband, Bill Hochul, is general counsel of Delaware North, a hospitality and concessions company that has ties to racinos that compete with Seneca-run gaming halls.
The Seneca Nation, meanwhile, is continuing to push the compact renewal.
“We have come to a fair deal with the state, and it is incumbent of them to hold up their side of the bargain," Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong, Sr. said in a statement. "The State Senate has already passed the bill providing the governor authority to complete the deal, and we strongly encourage the Assembly to do the same."