After several months filled with anticipation, excitement and controversy, The Oneida Nation’s Yellow Brick Road Casino has opened in Chittenango. The inspiration for the casino came from Chittenango being the birthplace of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum. Oneida Nation CEO Ray Halbritter told those on hand for the ceremony, “We sought to revitalize the community.”
Chittenango Mayor Ron Goeler said, “Visit our community. It’s worth visiting.” The casino has created over 250 jobs according to Goeler. Just minutes after doors opened to the public, one guest won a $3,000 jackpot at one of the 430 slot machines inside. The 67,000 square-foot venue also has a 500-seat bingo hall, in addition to a saloon, bar and restaurants.
Part of the deal stuck by the Oneidas include them sharing 25 percent of slot revenue for a 10-county exclusivity zone. Since last spring, the Oneidas have paid out around $65 million to the state. However, a license was granted last December, which will see the building of Lago, a $425 million casino 55 miles from Oneida territory.
Halbritter is obviously very upset at the choice to grant a casino in the area, and said, “They share the revenue that we’re making, so their revenue is imperiled, too, which in essence impacts the overall intentions of the agreement we made—the very carefully negotiated agreement, very painstakingly negotiated.”
The Lago project is also opposed by a local group, including several Amish families.
The Lago is projected at siphoning away $54.2 million from local racinos, and $78.5 million from tribal casinos annually, which comes to 51 percent of Lago’s projected earnings.