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Finger Lakes casino operator seeks state help, lashes out at Seneca Nation

ALBANY – The owner of a new casino in the Finger Lakes is blaming the Seneca Nation of Indians for its failure to meet revenue projections.

The claim – by del Lago Resort & Casino – comes as the Rochester developer who owns the casino, located between Rochester and Syracuse, was in Albany Tuesday looking for a state financial bailout of some kind as part of the state budget under discussion at the Capitol.

The Seneca Nation criticized the claims, saying the del Lago casino had originally projected to cannibalize gambling revenues from both its casinos in Western New York and casinos owned in central New York by the Oneida Nation.

Philip Pantano, a Seneca Nation spokesman, said del Lago had “unrealistic” casino revenue projections when the state awarded it a license several years ago.

“The projections haven’t materialized, falling short by some 44 percent, and now, del Lago is turning to the state to fund their failure to meet their own goals. That’s their fault, not ours,’’ said Pantano, the Seneca spokesman.

The Gannett news bureau in Albany reported Tuesday that del Lago principal Thomas Wilmot, a Rochester businessman, was at the Capitol trying to get state assistance – likely in the form of lower taxes – to help deal with revenue problems.

Del Lago spokesman Steven Greenberg said Tuesday the casino faces a “blatantly unfair competitive disadvantage” because the Seneca Nation stopped making casino revenue sharing payments to state and local governments in Western New York and spent $50 million on promotions and incentives “to lure customers from del Lago.’’

“When del Lago sought and won its casino license, it was done based on circumstances that have now significantly changed,’’ Greenberg said.

He said the Seneca Nation has “upset that applecart” that was envisioned for a “fair, competitive marketplace” for the casino operator to open in Seneca County.

Morris Peters, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's budget division, said a compact between the Seneca Nation and the state requires that money part of financial disputes between the two sides be put into escrow.

"Just like in 2013, we have no reason to doubt that the Senecas are not honoring that requirement,'' Peters said.

The Seneca Nation last year halted about $110 million in annual revenue sharing payments from its three casinos to the state, which shared a portion of those funds with governments in the region.

The del Lago casino opened in Tyre in 2017.

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