Rochester, N.Y.— The idea of a new casino in the Rochester-area has long been talked about.
In the past, there have been suggestions that one should go in downtown.
Irondequoit Supervisor Mary Joyce D'Aurizio says developer Scott Congel wants to bring one to Medley Centre.
Gates Supervisor Mark Assini says he’s been in talks with the Seneca Nation about opening up a casino in the Rochester region. Assini says the Senecas have been looking at Rochester Tech Park in Gates and also other possible locations in Victor and Irondequoit.
So when Governor Andrew Cuomo announced during the his State of the State address that he wants to add three Las Vegas-style non-Indian casinos to upstate New York, many people wondered if Rochester could be considered.
Lt. Governor Bob Duffy seems to think so.
“Upstate [New York] is certainly a big area,” he says. “Rochester is certainly a part of this region and a part of the competition [for casino bids] if we wanted.”
However, there is a legal issue to resolve before any new casinos could come to Western New York.
In 2002, the state signed a compact with the Seneca Nation giving them exclusive rights to the casinos in Western New York (land west of State Route 14). For this exclusivity, the Seneca Nation was to then share some of its revenue with the state.
However, in 2011, the Seneca Nation filed for arbitration claiming that the state violated this compact by opening up casinos like Finger Lakes Racetrack and Casino and Batavia Downs. The Nation has since withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from the state for the alleged violation of this compact.
The compact is set to expire in 2016.
Duffy agrees that there is a lot to work out between the state and the Seneca Nation.
“I will join the governor in that we both have great respect for the Seneca Nation,” Duffy says. “This issue is being discussed now through an arbitration process.”
According to The Buffalo News, Gov. Cuomo provided more details about his casino plan on Thursday.
He told reporters that the state would “honor legal agreements that are in good standing” when it comes to the location of the upstate casinos.
It is uncertain what will happen to the compact after the arbitration process and whether a non-Indian casino could come to the Rochester region seems to remain undetermined at this time.
If Las Vegas-style casinos were allowed in Western New York, the Fingerlakes Racetrack and Casino hopes that they (and the state’s other racinos) will be considered for expansion. Currently, these racinos do not have table games or traditional slots machines.
“If we were given the opportunity, we would love to be a full blown casino with tables and traditional slot machines,” says Steve Martin, the director of marketing for the Fingerlakes Racetrack and Casino. “We feel like it would be in the state’s interests to let us do that.”
Martin says last year, when the state began expressing interested in resort casinos, the Fingerlakes Racetrack and Casino developed an $80 million plan for expansion. The plan includes an event/concert center, a two hundred-room hotel, two more restaurants and expanded gaming space. A plan like this would first have to be approved by the state.
“We certainly have the space to do it,” says Martin. “There is over 500 acres on this property. There is room to do it. We are prepared to do it. We look forward to the opportunity to talk to the leaders in the state about how we could fit into the picture.”
It’s not yet clear if the state intends to build three casinos from the ground up or whether expansions at current facilities would be allowed.