ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A large group rallied in downtown Rochester Friday against putting a new Seneca Nation casino in the region.
National civil rights activist Rev. Kirsten John Foy came up from New York City for the event.
"Not here, not today, not ever will we allow a process that robs a community of economic resources, of its political voice and of its social stability," Foy said.
Social justice advocates believe a casino in Monroe County and especially in Rochester will have severe negative impacts on an already impoverished community. However, it wasn't the only argument being made with lawmakers, union members, businesses and other members of the gaming community there as well.
Western Regional Off-Track Betting President Henry Wojtaszek says Batavia Downs, Hamburg and Finger Lakes Gaming alone generated $160 million for the state last year. He said the Senecas give the state a smaller percentage in an already saturated market.
"You can bet if there's a casino here in Rochester, that's going to reduce the amount of money we able to send back to our communities to the state and to our local members," Wojtaszek said.
The Senecas currently operate three casinos in Western New York under a compact that expires Dec. 9. A framework for a new agreement is in place and last week the state Senate authorized the governor's office to approve it.
However, before the state Assembly brought the authorization to the floor, lawmakers learned leak details that as part of a new revenue sharing agreement, the Nation could build another casino in Monroe County.
"Our gripe as elected officials who happen to be Democrats is not with Seneca Nation. They have no allegiance to us. Our gripe is with our Democratic governor who we supported, who we elected to represent the issues and the concerns of our communities," Assembylman Demond Meeks, D-Rochester, said.
Rochester Assembly members believe they should have input. They said they have assurances from the speaker the bill will not come to the floor when they return next week unless something drastic changes.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, who recused herself from negotiations because her husband works for Seneca Gaming competitor Delaware North, said her office will give details when there's something to report.
"I also have to maintain the integrity of this office and because of that I said at the outset that I would recuse myself from any area that has any complicating factors given my husband's employment, because I want to make sure that we're above reproach and that is why I've had to recuse myself and I feel very confident in the outcome," Hochul said.
The deal would also still need to be approved by Seneca citizens in a referendum vote and by the United States Department of Interior. Rep. Joe Morelle, D-NY-25, also wrote to the department Friday asking it to thoroughly review the renegotiated gaming compact and reject it if it does not adequately reflect input and consideration from local leaders and the surrounding community.