Governor Hochul Can Now Participate in Seneca Nation Talks About a New Gambling Compact
New York Governor Kathy Hochul can now participate in talks with the Seneca Nation. This comes following her husband’s retirement from Delaware North. Kathy recused herself in 2021, as engaging in the talks would present a conflict of interest.
The governor released an updated recusal memo, noting that the financial conflict of interest was no longer an issue. Her statement noted that she would work with the Seneca Nation of Indians to come up with a fair gambling compact. Kathy hopes the compact will serve the interests of all parties and address the needs of stakeholders.
Meanwhile, Seneca Nation’s president is looking forward to communications with the governor. Rickey Armstrong Sr. relayed his interest in talking with the governor on August 31, 2023. Rickey became the nation’s president in November 2022, noting that the leadership at Seneca Nation had not met with Kathy.
Why Did Kathy Recuse Herself?
Kathy’s husband was one of the leaders at the Delaware North. The company is based in Buffalo and deals with hospitality and gambling. It is also a direct competitor of the Seneca Nation.
With the First Gentleman William Hochul retiring as the Senior Vice President and general counsel of Delaware North, Kathy can embark on talks with the Seneca Nation. William retired on August 15, 2023, making Kathy’s recusal null and void.
This led to the publishing of the recusal memo on the governor’s website. The memo detailed the reasons why Kathy recused herself in 2021.
According to the memo, Kathy recused herself to avoid a conflict of interest or the appearance of it according to Sections 73 and 74 of the Public Officers Law. With William retiring, direct or indirect financial interest also ended. Despite these changes, there are no scheduled meetings between the governor’s office and the Seneca Nation.
Yet, some people still questioned the effectiveness of Kathy’s recusal. While there is no evidence Kathy misused her office and influence, she still took some action that ended up benefitting Buffalo Bills stadium.
Kathy ordered the freezing of the Seneca Nation’s bank accounts to force a payment of $564 million in gambling revenue. Seneca paid the amount, with over $400 million contributing to the development of the Buffalo Bills stadium.
Some media reported on the possible relationship between Delaware North and Bills. Others criticized whether it was necessary to fund the billionaire owning the football team. Delaware North has provided Buffalo Bills with concessions for over 30 years but Legends Hospitality will take over in 2026.
Seneca Wants a Fair Compact
Despite everything, Seneca wants a fair gambling compact. The tribe’s former compact has expired, leading to ongoing talks about a Class III gaming compact. In fact, the involved parties declared in June that they had reached a preliminary compact agreement.
Unfortunately, the talks have stopped for now. Yet, the Seneca Nation insists that the new compact is critical to the economy of Western New York.
In June, Seneca had around 100 days before its gaming compact expired. Now, the tribe hopes direct talks with Governor Hochul could move along the talk. Seneca hopes for a successful conclusion that will protect its employees’ jobs and create economic benefits for Western New York.