• The Seneca Nation is in the middle of a revenue-sharing dispute with the NY government.
  • That dispute could give NY the power to block the Seneca from offering sports betting.
  • If unchallenged, the Seneca could launch sports betting at their three NY properties this year.

ALBANY, N.Y. – The Seneca Nation of Indians could offer sports betting at any or all of its New York casino properties by the end of the year.

The Seneca operate three casinos in the state: the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel (Niagara Falls), the Seneca Allegany Casino (Salamanca), and the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino (Buffalo).

Much of the focus on New York sports betting has been aimed at the state’s four commercial casinos, particularly the Tioga Downs Casino Resort, where the anticipated FanDuel Sportsbook is set to launch on Friday.

However, there are actually 11 total venues where sports betting is legal in New York. That count, of course, includes the state’s seven tribal casinos.

Per New York law, tribal gaming operators are empowered to offer any type of gaming that commercial casinos in the state provide. With sports betting now up and running at the Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady, the Seneca Nation – along with the Oneida and Mohawk Nations – is able to open sportsbooks at its casinos.

The Seneca will undoubtedly offer sports wagering products at their three New York casinos in the future. However, the timeline for launch is currently unknown.

The first issue is that the Seneca have not yet secured any deals with established sportsbook operators. Both the Oneida and the Mohawk have already announced such partnerships, putting them on the comparative fast-track.

The other issue is perhaps more pressing. Due to an ongoing compact dispute with the state, sports betting at Seneca properties could be delayed indefinitely.

According to the New York state government, the Seneca Nation is delinquent in its casino revenue sharing obligations. As of March 2017, the Seneca simply stopped paying the state, which now claims to be owed over $255 million in lapsed payments.

According to the Seneca Nation, however, their compact with New York does not mandate payments after 2016. The case is tied up in the judicial appeals process, and a resolution does not seem likely in the near future.

All that said, the same disputed compact is less ambiguous when it comes to the Seneca’s freedom to offer sports betting on their casino floors. In a written statement to The Buffalo News, the Seneca Nation is not shy about asserting its rights.

“The Seneca Nation is making preparations to offer sports wagering at our casino properties, and we look forward to making this amenity available to our patrons in Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca. Our right to offer this now-approved offering is clearly outlined in our compact,” the Seneca Nation said.

Chapter 16(c)(1) of the Seneca tribal compact with New York clearly states the following:

“If the state…makes lawful a Class III Gaming game not authorized to be conducted for any purpose by any person, organization or entity on the Effective Date of this Compact…then the State shall give the Nation Gaming Operation written notice of such action within thirty (30) days, identifying the game and its specifications. If the Nation Gaming Operation accepts such game and its specifications, it shall notify the State in writing and a corresponding amendment shall be made…to authorize the Nation Gaming Operation to conduct such games.”

Sports betting is considered a Class III game, and it was not legally available in the state at the time of the compact’s original signing. Now that the state has approved sports betting, the Seneca are allowed to also offer the activity.

While New York could challenge the legal status of its compact with the Seneca Nation given the tribe’s alleged breach of contract, it is unclear if the state is actually willing to go that route.

News tags: | | | | | | | | |