The del Lago Resort & Casino says that the Seneca Nation has had an unfair advantage ever since they stopped making payments to state and local governments.
TYRE — Del Lago Resort and Casino is seeking financial help from New York state.
Issuing a statement saying that the Seneca Nation has had an unfair advantage since it stopped making payments to New York State and local governments, del Lago says that the Seneca Nation has instead been using the more than $50 million to create promotions and incentives to lure customers from del Lago.
According to the statement from del Lago spokesman Steven Greenberg, this has greatly changed the circumstances compared to when del Lago first sought and won its casino license for its Seneca County operation, and they are simply looking for a "fair, competitive marketplace."
The Seneca Nation responded that del Lago started out with "unrealistic expectations."
Del Lago's statement reads, in part: “As it starts its second year, del Lago faces a blatantly unfair competitive disadvantage. When del Lago sought and won its casino license, it was done based on circumstances that have now significantly changed. The Seneca Nation stopped making payments to both New York State and to the local governments last year. What are they doing with that newfound windfall? Using more than $50 million to provide additional promotions and incentives – particularly in the Rochester area — to lure customers from del Lago. And it’s working. Del Lago can compete on an even playing field but not one that’s tipped so heavily toward the Senecas. ... Unfortunately, the Senecas have upset that applecart and now del Lago is seeking to level the playing field."
The casino celebrated its one-year anniversary just last month. At that time, the Daily Messenger's news partner News 10NBC asked the casino's general manager, Jeff Babinski, about the number of casinos in Upstate New York. Along with del Lago and the Seneca casinos (in Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca in the Southern Tier), upstate is home to racinos in Farmington (Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack, 27 miles from del Lago), Batavia (Genesee County), Hamburg (Erie County) and Nichols (Tioga County); other Native American casinos in Cayuga, Oneida and Madison counties as well as the Adirondacks; and a commercial casino in Schenectady
"Look," Babinski said, "I'm not one to say if its saturated or oversaturated, at the end of the day, it's competition. It's healthy competition for the consumer and we are going to be competitive."
In Farmington, the challenge at first seemed insurmountable. It wasn’t even clear there would be a racing season in 2017 until an 11th-hour agreement was made containing a two-year plan to help FLGR — Ontario County's top employer, with some $80 million annual generated in the local economy — over the hump.
Based on the agreement to save thoroughbred racing at FLGR and soften the blow from the opening of del Lago, FLGR was to contribute a minimum of an additional $600,000 and up to $1 million for purses toward the racing operation — subject to the impact to its gaming revenue in 2017. Additionally, the New York Breeders Association was to contribute $1.5 million for purse enhancements and del Lago Casino & Resort was to give $447,000 per year over the next two years.
Its first year wasn't entirely rosy for del Lago, which had estimated it would make $263 million in its first year. The GM told News 10NBC it fell short of that estimate by $100 million. The resort and casino is now the largest employer in Seneca County, with 1,200 employees.
Phil Pantano, a spokesperson for the Seneca Nation, responded to del Lago's accusation with the following statement:
"The owners of del Lago had unrealistic expectations when they applied for their gaming license. Despite various concerns that were raised, the project was approved by the State. Del Lago's estimates were that they were going to take significant market share from both the Seneca Nation's operations in Western New York and from the Oneida operations in Central New York. On top of that, their projections also called for significant new outside revenue. Which of those promises did they fail to live up to? The numbers don't lie. 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."
Messenger Post Media contributed to this report.