Rochester, N.Y. — A new report by The Buffalo News shows that the Seneca Nation of Indians is pushing for rights to build a casino in downtown Rochester.
This demand comes as a part of the arbitration proceedings between the Senecas and New York State.
The Seneca Nation owes the state and local governments more than $500 million in casino revenue since the Nation has exclusive rights to casino gaming in Western New York. However, the Senecas have withheld this payment because they believe the state violated this exclusivity agreement by opening up racinos like Finger Lakes Casino & Racetrack and Batavia Downs.
When asked about this report, Rochester Mayor Tom Richards says he’s not surprised, because the Seneca Nation has shown interest in downtown Rochester before. However, he says he didn’t know Rochester would be used as a bargaining chip in the latest negotiations.
Richards said while he’s not completely against the idea of a casino in Rochester, he’s against the idea of one being right downtown.
“I don't want it downtown,” he said. “I think it would change the character of downtown. I don't think we need to do that. We can improve our downtown. We're well on our way to doing that.”
Richards says his takeaway from The Buffalo News report was that Rochester was one of the many bargaining chips the Senecas are putting on the table and that it doesn’t mean a casino is even close to making its way to Rochester.
“What you have here is an obvious back and forth negotiation. There is nothing in that article that we are about to act on or anything like that.”
Richards says the idea of bringing a casino to Rochester must be closely examined and ultimately be up to the voters and taxpayers. He also cautioned against growing too excited about the prospects of a new casino.
“Niagara falls, for instance, can be considered to have ended up in worse shape than they were before because their casino deal did not materialize the way it was supposed to,” he explained.
In January, Governor Andrew Cuomo also announced that he wanted to open three non-Indian casino in upstate New York. It isn’t clear yet where those casinos would go.
However, any land west of Route 14 is exclusive to the Seneca Nation for casino-building.