Comptroller Review Of A New Seneca Nation Gaming Compact Makes A Lot Of Sense

It’s unlikely, in our opinion, that the state Legislature will pass Sen. George Borrello’s most recent proposal.

That’s too bad, because Borrello’s idea is a good one.

Last week the Sunset Bay Republican introduced A.7502 to require the state Comptroller’s Office to review a new gaming compact between the state and Seneca Nation of Indians. The current compact generates about $100 million that benefits the state and the casinos’ host communities in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Salamanca.

Such a review wasn’t necessary when the first compact was negotiated in 2001, but things are a bit different this time around. Neither then-Gov. George Pataki nor his family had ties to businesses that compete with the Seneca Nation for gaming dollars. Gov. Kathy Hochul has already said she will recuse herself from negotiations between the state and Seneca Nation because her husband, former U.S. Attorney William Hochul, works for Delaware North, which owns two racinos that compete with the Seneca Nation’s casinos. But only Hochul can actually sign off on a contract between the state and Seneca Nation.

William Hochul’s work for Delaware North doesn’t automatically mean Governor Hochul would forsake the state to help her husband’s company. In fact, we have full faith Hochul would do the opposite.

We back a review by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli for two reasons. First, delegating negotiations to the state Gaming Commission before turning the approval over to the governor means something could be lost in translation — and the last place anyone wants there to be any confusion is with the Seneca Nation. Western New Yorkers don’t want to find themselves in the middle of another dispute between the state and Seneca Nation, especially one that is easily avoidable. The second reason to have DiNapoli involved in this specific case is he is an elected official accountable to the voters with a reputation for taking on members of his own party if he sees wrongdoing. He has earned the public’s trust to review the compact and make a recommendation.

Borrello’s legislation asking for DiNapoli’s review of a compact ties back to something he said on the Senate floor recently when the Senate was deliberating creation of an Office of Native American Affairs.

“You saw the previous administration that was actively engaged in sabotaging the Seneca Nation and others. For example, we saw a compact that was violated by the previous governor and, other such atrocities that made it more difficult for the Seneca Nation and others that provide economic support, particularly to our local governments through the compact. I really urge the governor to move forward this new compact. It’s critically important as you run into the end of this session. Part of this legislation says to develop and maintain cooperative relationships between New York state’s tribal nations, tribal organization, Native American citizens and the state. We have a long way to go to complete that.”

The local senator is right. The state has much to do to rebuild trust with the Seneca Nation. Perhaps DiNapoli can play a role in that work by making sure a new gaming compact doesn’t leave either the state or the Seneca Nation with a bitter taste.


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