Senecas will return if they can get local support
The Seneca Nation of Indians of New York State has announced it is no longer pursuing a casino development in Henrietta, Monroe County.
The announcement follows months of pushback from the No More Casinos Coalition, a group backed by the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., and other gaming, business and community groups in the vicinity, reports the Batavia Daily News.
The Nation did not rule out the project entirely, the News reported. In a letter to Monroe County Legislator Justin Wilcox, Seneca Nation President Barry Snyder Sr. said he was “writing to clarify and confirm my position that the Seneca Nation of Indians will not pursue the siting of a casino development project in Henrietta, or Monroe County, at this time.”
Snyder added the Indians will not revisit the project “without the support of the local community and New York state.”
WROTB Chief Operating Officer Michael Nolan said the community came out in force to oppose the development, and won, despite the Senecas’ purchase of 32 acres in the town, and a plan described as “well-advanced.”
“In Henrietta, it had moved further than a proposal,” Nolan said. “They purchased land with the intention of opening a casino … I think if they have another proposal in a year, or five, then years, it will still face opposition.”
The Seneca Nation already operates casinos in Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca. It would need to amend its compact with the state before undertaking a fourth development.
WROTB viewed the Henrietta proposal as a direct threat to Batavia Downs, which is in the final stages of a $28 million renovation. “Our argument in Monroe County was that there are gaming facilities that already exist in their backyard,” Nolan said. “We’re having more visitors and are expanding our brand.”
Snyder blamed “the misrepresentation of gaming competitors and misunderstandings caused by opinions expressed on the matter.”
But Henrietta Town Supervisor Jack Moore said the people “spoke very loud and clear” against additional gaming in Henrietta. Moore added that the Seneca Nation “recognized that and they did a very honorable thing.”
The Indians have not ruled out revisiting the proposal. “Should a future development opportunity arise in Monroe County, we will conduct the outreach and analysis necessary to determine how to best proceed,” said Phil Pantano, Seneca Gaming spokesman. “That process will be rooted in collaboration and economic development.”
Seneca Gaming paid $2.75 million for the land.
“If in the future the Seneca Nation should move forward with a proposal to expand casino gaming in Monroe County, we will once again emphatically oppose such a plan,” Nolan said. “The people of Monroe County recognize the fact that a Seneca-owned casino would adversely impact the local community and give the Seneca Nation a competitive advantage that will be damaging to businesses, both large and small, across the region. That is something that the people of this community are unwilling to accept, and they resoundingly made that point.”