The Seneca Nation of Indians is learning about the Law of Unintended Consequences this morning.
If you haven’t already heard, a deal between the New York State Assembly and Senate to pass several measures has already cleared the Assembly, and is likely to pass in the Senate as well. The deal covers a lot of ground—including attacking bloated pension costs and establishing a statewide DNA database—but most interestingly, it allows for seven new non-Indian casinos in New York.
Truth be told, we were always somewhat favorably inclined toward giving the Indians a monopoly on gaming in New York. We have always held the view that the native peoples of the United States were screwed by the federal and state governments repeatedly during the first 100-plus years of this nation’s independence, and that the abject poverty that grew out of the reservation system was less a reflection on the Indians’ way of life than on a paternalistic federal government.
The chance to get rich offering people a vice that was tightly regulated elsewhere seemed like a good way of making amends.
When talk of expanding non-Indian gaming at racetracks and elsewhere came along, we were skeptical. Actually, we were inclined to think it amounted to the state engaging in what was once known as “Indian giving.”
We even understood the Senecas’ anger over those proposals.
The problem is, though, the Senecas sought preemptive revenge against Albany and withheld slot revenues due to the state and the host communities under the casino compact between the state and the Indian tribes—and in doing so, they ended up hurting the host communities, which had largely been on their side, and provided much of their customer base, far more than they hurt Albany.
As we said, we once would have defended the Indians’ gaming monopoly. But today, we find ourselves cheering on Albany in this fight, because the Senecas actions hurt our region.
We’d love to hear what others have to say on this topic, though.