Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. today filed an ethics complaint against Rochester developer David Flaum and the Seneca Nation of Indians over plans for a Rochester-area casino, saying Flaum isn’t registered as a lobbyist.
The Senecas, who run three western New York casinos, announced in August that they had reached a deal with Flaum to explore a potential casino in Henrietta. Since then, the Senecas have met with local officials, and there has been public backlash to the idea.
Western OTB runs Batavia Downs Race Track, which has video-lottery terminals. The public-benefit corporation has warned that it would be devastated by a casino in Henrietta.
“There is evidence strongly suggesting that Flaum and Flaum Rochester are lobbying on behalf of the Seneca Nation and the SGC,” Michael Nolan, executive vice president of Western OTB, said in a statement.
A copy of the agreement between Flaum and the Senecas says that Flaum will provide ‘liaison services’, which includes helping the Seneca Nation win state approval for a Rochester-area casino.
“I think it’s clear that those responsibilities fall under the definition of lobbying” Nolan said.
Michael Kane, president of Western OTB, said Flaum also has a contingent-based fee arrangement that could pay Flaum as much as $5 million if casino comes to fruition.
Flaum dismissed the complaint, saying he has hired two lobbyists and the Senecas also have two lobbyists.
“I’m not a lobbyist, and I hired two lobbyists,” he said.
The Senecas have exclusive gaming rights in western New York, including the Rochester area. The Senecas settled a long-standing dispute with the state last year, and since then the Senecas have been eying a casino in the Rochester area.
Any Rochester-area casino would need state and federal approval at a time when Gov. Andrew Cuomo is planning to build four privately owned casinos upstate: in the Southern Tier, Catskills and Albany area.