State Assembly stalls compact vote amid concerns over proposed Rochester-area casino

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – A Politico report exposing a quietly-negotiated plan between the Seneca Nation and Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office to build a casino in the Rochester area has New York State Assembly members crying foul.

Assemblymember Sarah Clark, D-136th District said that before a new 20-year gaming compact between the Seneca Nation and the state is authorized, local officials and the community need to have their voices heard.

“I am very happy that we were able to go to our leader, tell him our concerns, and he immediately said it won’t go to the floor for a vote today and as we have heard now, it won’t go for a vote next week,” Clark said.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said late Friday that a vote should not happen amid so much concern from lawmakers and constituents.

“Our hope is that if Rochester is involved, Rochester is at the table and in the conversations – not at the last minute, but during the negotiations,” Clark said.

It’s a belief shared by State Sen. Jeremy Cooney who was one of the few ‘no’ votes when the authorization passed the Senate

“I stand by my ‘no’ vote in the Senate. I believe that there is a lot of unknowns when it comes to what is in this deal or what is in this compact,” Cooney said.

Among Cooney’s concerns? The impact a casino would have on existing businesses and law enforcement

“Regardless of where they actually situate the casino, the land itself would be entirely owned by the Seneca Nation, which means a Rochester Police officer could not walk in and have jurisdiction of any action taking place within the four walls of the casino,” Cooney said.

Adding to the controversy, the Senecas deny the claim by Hochul’s office that a non-disclosure agreement prevented the her office from sharing details of their negotiations with local delegates.

The Senecas say that the NDA simply never existed.

But amid the stalemate, Clark said there are still reasons to be optimistic.

“We need to reach a compact, an agreement with the Seneca Nation on a new gaming compact, we owe it to them to make sure we do that. The current agreement doesn’t expire ’til December 8th so we have time,” Clark said.

Time left on the clock, at a time when there are more questions than answers.