In deal, Oneida will keep casino dominance over central New York

May 17, 2013

The Oneida Indian Nation will for the first time share a sizeable chunk of gaming revenue from its casino operation in order to keep competition from the state out its backyard.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Oneida Nation announced the deal in Albany Thursday. It comes as Cuomo is trying to get a referendum on the ballot by November that could legalize casino gambling in New York. The governor sees it as a major job creator and economic booster for upstate.

The deal will send 25 percent on the casino's revenue - estimated at $50 million a year - to New York. In exchange, the Oneida will gain exclusive rights to a 10 county region surrounding its casino in Verona, N.Y. That includes Onondaga County, home to the city of Syracuse.

"This is a success for not just the Oneida people but it’s a win for central New York and a win for the state," said Ray Halbritter, tribal representative for the Oneida.

There are a few other caveats to the deal:

  • Oneida and Madison Counties will drop their legal action against the nation over land claims and tax issues.
  • The Oneidas agree to cap their land trust - land outside their designated tribal land that they own - at 25,000 acres.
  • The nation will collect sales taxes on fuel and cigarettes and a room occupancy tax on non-tribal members.

The deal excludes central New York from gaining a state operated casino, if voters approve the legalization of casino gaming. The deal will remain in affect regardless of passage of gambling. It is contingent on approval from the federal government.

The deal is similar to ones struck between the state and the Seneca and Mohawk nations, which also operate casinos. The Seneca could lose their exclusivity due to some legal battles with the state.

This deal with the Oneida narrows the possible locations where Cuomo could place a casino. He has identified up to six regions and wants to place three casinos upstate to begin with.

Turning Stone casino opened in 1993 and has helped propel the Oneida Nation to a role as a major source of jobs for central New York.