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rouletteThe state and the Seneca Nation are wheeling and dealing about the future of downtown Rochester behind closed doors.

It would be nice if Rochester had a say in all this.

Here’s what’s going on. The Buffalo News reported on secret negotiations between the state and the Senecas over a long-running dispute. The Senecas are mad the state allowed video slot machines at racetracks in Batavia and Farmington, so they’re withholding payments to municipalities where their casinos are located and the state. The payments total $572 million.

The Buffalo News found out:

Before the Seneca Nation of Indians pays even part of the $572 million it owes the state and local governments in casino revenue-sharing money, it wants the Cuomo administration to make several concessions, including giving it casino development rights in downtown Rochester.


The settlement plan that the Senecas proposed includes rights to develop a casino in downtown Rochester. Former Seneca President Robert Odawi Porter first floated the idea of a Rochester gambling hall in 2011.

Since the federal government backed away from allowing Indian tribes to build off-reservation casinos, it is believed the Senecas want Cuomo to add Rochester to the list of seven possible sites where the state might permit a new casino. The Senecas could then seek to develop a Rochester facility, possibly with a non-Indian partner.

Mayor Tom Richards doesn’t want a casino downtown. If the state allows this, the city loses control. Former Mayor Bill Johnson often said he didn’t want a “sovereign nation” downtown.

Casinos can have a major impact – often negative – on cities and residents. We ought to be in the loop before the state trades our future for cash.

Links of the Day:

– Batavia Downs is undergoing a $25 million expansion. Slots, slots, slots.

– A report alleges Buffalo and Rochester Border Patrol agents get cash and other incentives for arresting immigrants.

– Applying for a pistol permit in Onondaga County? Come back in 2014.

– Syracuse has a big hot dog drama. Investors, including Jim Boeheim and the Oneidas, are suing Hoffman’s over alleged misuse.

– The state’s top judge wants cameras in court. He also wants to overhaul the bail system, which he says is unfair to poor people and could let dangerous criminal go free.

Congratulations to the Wilson High boys swim team. So many city secondary schools have gorgeous pools. Put them to use and teach kids a great life skill and activity.

– Children Awaiting Parents is having a fundraiser and photo contest. Please consider entering to support this great organization! It is called “What Family Means to Me.”

24 Responses to Rochester a Bargaining Chip

  1. What, the D&C missed this story?

    They need a new building so they can scoop these kind of stories.

  2. February 7, 2013 at 9:24 am DominionROC responds:

    To be competitive …our region MUST develop a major casino. Its a quality of life issue for regional residents and a major means of attracting new residents and tourists.

    But where to put it? I would suggest High Falls…not among the historic buildings in the district…but mostly below…in the gorge area that once was occupied by the BeeBee Power Plant. There is over 20 acres of developable land in sight lines of the 90 foot waterfalls and the massive gorge walls that surround the Genesee River. This could be a FANTASTIC sight for a Casino…a beautify site…and close to downtown…not in the center. This site BEGS for a large up=scale Casino. Let’s start talking with RG&E!!!

  3. February 7, 2013 at 9:52 am Hahvahd St responds:

    How is not having a casino a quality of life issue? I’ve been to casinos in Atlantic City, New Orleans, Lake Tahoe, and Niagara Falls and they are all exactly the same. You go into the casino and by design everything is available inside, leading to no foot traffic around the casino. I could live my whole life without ever going into another casino and be perfectly happy.

    • February 7, 2013 at 10:28 am DominionROC responds:

      A casino is not just a room with gaming devices…its live entertainment shows, fine restaurants, up-scale shops and pure gaming entertainment. And throw in a few thousand jobs which will be created in Rochester vs. local money going to other casinos. A community’s net worth is based on the sum of all assets that exists …like a casino, entertainment, fine dining, public parks, arts and cultural activities…etc. A casino complex is like any other major entertainment project…it benefits the whole community.

      Accept the fact that gaming industry has and will always be a part of our society. Why not embrace a large Casino?….everyone will benefit.

  4. DominionROC: High Falls has already been killed once by major johnson why do it again? I suggest this alternative for High Falls Rachel Please tweet this if you can https://ioby.org/project/sustainable-sunken-garden-browns-race?utm_source=GardenAerial%3A+The+Gorge+Issue+%235&utm_campaign=GardenAeral+Vol.+5&utm_medium=email

  5. Nice job by the BUFFALO News finding out information before our local reporters do. This is an interesting situation. There is $572 million on the line here. I am not a lawyer but I don’t know why the state and municipalities have not taken the Senecas to court over this.

    I think the city of Rochester should make that determination on whether or not they want a Seneca Casino and not the state. Hey lets face it, they have not done anything for Niagara Falls, Verona or Salamanca. I am a firm believer that the state should legalize gambling and that it should be the race tracks who get the first crack at becoming casinos. The city of Rochester is in no position and does not want to get into a tug-of-war with the Seneca’s. The only way a downtown casino could work in Rochester if it is state regulated which would guarantee the tax revenue. This is a slippery slope and I agree with Rachel that the city should have a say.

  6. So, are we in the ROC Denial syndrome why the City is not included in the casino negotiations?

    Wouldn’t be because a past mayor dumped on a prominent local casino developer’s proposal for one at the non-razed Midtown site who specializes in building them as a surrogate for Native Americans?

    The game being played is far above the political skill level of those elected to run the city.

    It’s supposed to be elephants that have long memories and donkeys that are stubborn. In this case the developer is both.

  7. February 7, 2013 at 11:32 am Tony Mittiga responds:

    How it came to be that the Indian casinos are the tail that wags the dog is pretty obvious. Piles of political donations,
    including more donations, and political pressure, from would be non-indian partners. I don’t care how many new jobs will be promised, how many real estate deals will be enriched, or how much revenue is anticipated: stay away from Rochester!

  8. February 7, 2013 at 11:42 am Derek Sanderson responds:

    King Andrew should look to his father’s wisdom regarding casinos. Mario was smart enough to see that casinos do not create wealth for a community, they simply redistribute it.

    Come on King Andy, let’s attract real jobs to upstate!

  9. Again, people miss the point, just like with the bully-ish way Heir Cuomo shoved gun legislation down our throats because waiting 72 hours would’ve supposedly caused chaos.
    This isn’t about casinos, it’s about our ‘leaders’ acting like dictators and doing end arounds to avoid following the PROCESS. We have laws, we have rules within the system for doing things but the Cuomo/Duffy team never follow them. But you and I are not only expected to, but are threatened with criminal prosecution if we don’t. When will NY’ers wake the hell up and demand accountability? Being governor of a state doesn’t offer any special dispensation where the PROCESS doesn’t have to be followed, no matter which of the 2 self-serving organized criminal enterprises knowns as political parties tell you.
    C’mon sheeple, step back and get the big picture.

  10. Justaguy can you be more specific? Not all of us are governmental law scholars or have the time to follow every nook and crannie of the procedure (Hense why government types usually take advantage and get away with stuff but I digress). So please if you do not mind providing some specifics it would be greatly appreciated.

    As for the idea that casinos just redistribute wealth, that’s the idea because its tax revenue. Huge amounts of tax revenue. That problem isn’t from the casinos, its from our leaders not using the money properly which is of course a completely different issue.

  11. I don’t claim to be a governmental scholar, I just pay attention to the news and remember my basic civics lessons from school. On the gun law Cuomo used some lame ‘urgency’ excuse to bypass the mandatory 3 day discussion period (required for new laws) about guns because he said something like ‘this has been discussed ad nauseum, there is no debate needed, NY’ers have had that discussion over and over’. I don’t remember being asked for my input. Were you?
    With the casino, following Cuomo’s own logic, we have had this debate in Rochester over and over about casinos and since we haven’t had one built I would think the consensus is Rochester doesn’t want one. But Andy doesn’t care what Rochester wants. He is looking at signing away property in perpetuity to a Tribe, removing the city from ever having any control over that property permanently as it MUST become Tribal territory to have a legal casino on it. This was one of the big sticking points in the past: Do we want to sign over a section of midtown to an entity that would then have the right to do anything they wish with that property regardless of what the now surrounding municipality and it’s gov’t officials and citizens want done with it.
    And why is he doing it? Politics. Politics in the US are by the nature of the system we have ‘allowed’ to develop, a matter of Party; Republican or Democrat. This isn’t for the good of the People, nor even for the good of the Tribe. It is because our gov’t won’t live up to it’s obligations (Tribal Treaties) and our ‘leaders’ don’t have the backbone to accept the legal responsibilities they have signed the People up for in said Treaties. The state doesn’t want Tribes selling smokes or gas to non-Tribal members because they lose tax dollars. The Tribes say their Treaties allow it. Instead of letting courts decide the gov’t comes up with the scam of allowing casinos only on Tribal land and they come up with that because they have no backbone. They have no backbone because the best interest of the People isn’t what they are thinking about, re-election and minimal PR damage to THE PARTY is what they are thinking about. So you see, the PROCESS that would normally occur, (following the laws, regulations etc. of the state, county and city/town/village) are bypassed. If you wanted to develop an area those rules of the game are still in full effect but they are now removed and placed in the hands of Herr Cuomo. Just like they were with the gun debate that the sheep were led to believe was about guns but should be recognized as being about a power grab.
    I wouldn’t blame the Tribes one bit if they shut down the Thruway again where it passes through Tribal land because I believe in the rule of law, including the sections about contracts and treaties. See the news about secret authorization for the killing Americans with drones as another way a Party, embodied in the President, did an end around. If you had a knock on the door telling you that you were under arrest, losing your house to Eminent Domain, losing your driver’s license, whatever you want to pick you would expect every last bit of Due Process afforded to you. Our elected and appointed leaders and any public official who has raised their hand and taken an oath (as I did in my 2 careers) to support and defend the Constitution of the US, NY, even the City Charter MUST be held to that standard unless just cause is shown and only a court can determine if it was when it is questioned. If people want a casino, let the people decide. Not a power grabbing hack.

  12. February 7, 2013 at 4:04 pm Mittens responds:

    Please don’t put it downtown. Put it in Charlotte.

  13. I’d like to also add that I spent an hour today listening to an interview with the Lt. Gov. of California. Compared to Duffy he well well spoken and sounded extremely knowledgeable about a multitude of topics, but the thing he said that I was most impressed with was when he talked about how politicians (and he mentioned the President and the drone fiasco) fail to understand that there is no way to govern in private anymore and that they need to accept that and go for the most open gov’t as possible…… as opposed to NY where it’s still good old boy, 3 men in a room, do as I say or kiss your stipends goodbye politics as usual.
    Have a listen and compare him to our ‘leaders’.

  14. February 7, 2013 at 6:08 pm Kevin Yost responds:

    Not sure if I agree with another casino in Niagara Falls, NY, USA to be non-Indian. If there is to be a casino in Rochester, Indian or not, it should be only in the former Beebee Station building in the High Falls District.

  15. I support a casino. Seniors of this area have the money and they love casinos. Now is the time due to the baby boomer era. It’s only smart to provide a product that people want. It should NOT be in the city. Maybe Canadaiqua or by Eastview Mall. A casino will NOT improve a distressed area. It should be put in a established area as an addition to the area, not as a savior. The city government would ruin the experience of a casino for any visitors. The city is a toilet.

  16. February 7, 2013 at 8:25 pm Tony Mittiga responds:

    I thought comments were to be focused on the issue of the governor considering bringing a casino to Rochester. Why do some commentators, one in particular, feel the need to excoriate, root and branch, our state political system, and office holders!

  17. Comments are to be about any of the topics covered on this page, such as the Wilson Swim Team. And I do it to try and shine some light on a subject. I’ve worked in gov’t my entire adult life at the federal and local levels, I might just have some insight that the average person doesn’t. I also think many posters here and in America as a whole could use a refresher in basic civics. Rachel can ban me anytime she wants, all she has to do is ask and you’ll never hear from me again. But you can feel free to ignore anything I post and be another sheep following the herd. The Internet is full of information that most of the media won’t tell you about or presents in a biased light. But many people are too lazy to look for it or are themselves too biased to hear the truth.
    Of course you might be talking about someone else…….. or you could be an active member of one of these 2 Parties and don’t want the truth getting out there.

  18. It is our political leaders, DEMS I might add, that are dealing with the Indians about a Casino to be placed in Rochester and doing this in secret behind closed doors. If that doesn’t form the basis to condemn them by EVERYONE I don’t know what does.

    And doesn’t it seem a bit strange that not ONE local media knew about it and reported it?

    Countless times we have found the D&C guilty of censoring the news, and not reporting things, that go against their political (DEM) AGENDA.

    People in this area, no matter what party they favor, should condemn that censorship as well.

    There are many a book that told stories about a future where the press hides what the politicians are doing, because they where in reality part of the govt.

    Locally that 4th estate, the press are not the watch dogs for the people but rather the enemy of the people. Except the people don’t know it … or care… yet

    • The new downtown casino proposal is payback for the nixation of the old downtown casino proposal just the way the new MCC proposal is payback for the nixation of the old RenSq proposal.

  19. It seems there is a lot of funny business going on regarding casinos right now. Check out Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack. They’re preparing to dump something like $10 million plus in the place and the word on the street that the money is for new space for table games – roulette, blackjack and more. They don’t have approval for these games – none of these “Racinos” do – but the speed with which this is proceeding suggests that the decision has already been made. It’s just that we haven’t been told about it yet.

  20. February 21, 2013 at 11:23 pm Harris Honickman responds:

    I agree with the above comment. Bringing casinos into the area will not bring in new revenue to the Rochester area. It just redistributes money from the poor and lower middle class to the owners – often quite wealthy – who reside outside of our community.

    It’s a net loss for our community.

  21. Heard a rumor that Senecas are in talks with Kodak about taking remainder of Kodak Headquarters. Casino, performance space, and conference facilities would mainly be in the low-rise building, with a hotel in the tower. Kodak would move headquarters elsewhere downtown or to space at Eastman Business Park. Would not be sovereign land – fully taxable – and would provide immediate occupancy for huge complex that may otherwise soon be vacant. Makes it pretty easy for City Hall to support and gives Senecas an iconic location with incredible views, near stadiums and with abundant parking. How ironic would it be if MCC moves next door to a large casino complex in order to get away from the “distractions” at Sibley…

    Any truth to these rumors? If not, there should be. Kinda makes perfect sense.

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