Indian tribal casinos in one state will often differ from those in another, and New York’s tribal gambling places are unique. Because they are located on sovereign territory — tribal land which is self-ruling in many aspects — they may have rules which are different from those you’d expect at a racetrack or racino. We’ve gathered some tidbits on the tribal gaming places.
Some Things of Interest About Native American Casinos in New York:
There are 3 gaming tribes of native Americans in New York. They are the Oneida Nation, the Seneca, and the Mohawk. They have negotiated gaming compacts with the state, permitted to do so because they are among New York’s 8 federally-recognized tribes. A compact with the state is necessary to conduct Class III gaming, which generally means table games; to conduct Bingo, pull tabs, or other Class II games on tribal land requires no state agreement because these are already permitted by U.S. legislation passed in 1988 (the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act).
An old preconceived image of Native American gambling casinos is that they are small, seedy places like sometimes portrayed in movies. But in New York State, the exact opposite is true. Due to healthy tourism, casino properties of the Oneida, Seneca and Mohawk are large and beautiful, set in gorgeous New York landscapes like gems. They are also big operations, attractive to investors, and are able to rebuild or expand often. Some specialize in cuisine or entertainment that especially draws foreign visitors too.
There is just one Mohawk casino now, since the Mohawk Bingo Palace moved its video slots to its brother location, also in Hogansburg NY, the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino — which is still of course Class III gaming, with slots, table games and a poker room.
Most of the NY Indian casinos still allow smoking within the casino or certain areas of it. All their hotels offer nonsmoking rooms as well.
All Indian gambling casinos have liquor licenses and may serve alcoholic beverages, with the exception of Seneca Buffalo Creek.
Turning Stone Casino has won multiple awards from the media for its fine cuisine. They have 10 restaurants.
It is said by some that Native American casinos don’t comp you. They do; however, it may be a considerably lower level than you were used to in Nevada establishments. So, ask to be comped and see what you can get. Always sign up for the club card so your play is tracked, and when you call for a room reservation on a return visit, try to get a free room, for example. And don’t be shy of asking for other things such as food and drink freebies when you’re playing.
Some gamblers say Indian casinos do things like having considerably lower payouts on slots than all other casinos, to the tune of 85% or 90%; or that they cheat the blackjack players by removing tens from the deck. However, you can check on some of this. For instance, most blackjack dealers will display the decks used for the players to see, prior to dealing or putting them in the shoe, if one is used. And when a deck is changed, the procedures are rather airtight. You are playing at your own risk when it comes to the VGMs, however. Payout percentages on non-Class III games — i.e, VGMs or “slots” — are self-regulated by the tribe in conjunction with the National Indian Gaming Commission, not the state.