Ray Halbritter has led the Oneida people to an economic and cultural renaissance that has been hailed as a national model of success.
The grandson of an Oneida leader and the son of a nurse, he lived in an impoverished community on the Oneida Indian Nation’s sacred homeland, and saw his family members die in an inferno neglected by local officials. He toiled as an ironworker to make ends meet, eventually getting into Syracuse University and then Harvard Law School.
Having deep roots in his Nation, Halbritter returned to Central New York to use his education to give back to his community, beginning the arduous process of building the first major enterprises on the Oneida homelands. With Halbritter at the helm, the Oneida Indian Nation became the first American Indian government in 1979 to offer gaming operations on sovereign land — one of many prescient moves that positioned the Oneida people to build what would become a world-class entertainment and gaming facility in the heart of the Northeast.
In the early years of the resurgence, Halbritter’s vision of major enterprises were at first derided by the local media as unrealistic — but through diligence, hard work and collaboration, he helped transform an empty cornfield into sustainable enterprises that have become an engine of jobs, shared prosperity and cultural resurgence for the Oneida people.
In all, the Nation’s businesses include Turning Stone Resort Casino, Yellow Brick Road Casino, Point Place Casino, the Maple Leaf Market & SāvOn chain of convenience stores, Oneida Technical Solutions, Oneida Heritage Sales & Rentals, a hunting preserve, fishing lodge and three Marinas.
Earlier this year, the Oneida Indian Nation partnered with Caesars Entertainment to develop The Lounge with Caesars Sports at its three New York casinos. After debuting The Lounge with Caesars Sports at Turning Stone Resort Casino and Point Place Casino in New York on August 1, the Tribe opened its third sportsbook and New York State’s largest sportsbook at nearly 9,000-square feet: The Lounge with Caesars Sports at Yellow Brick Road Casino, designed to accommodate more than 250 sports fans. The third sportsbook venue started taking bets in September, just in time for the NFL season opener.
In related news, a new entertainment wing will open at Yellow Brick Road Casino in Chittenango, New York, in February, expanding on the Oneida Indian Nation’s roster of partnerships with national brands in the gaming and entertainment industries. The multi-million expansion will feature a six-lane luxury Brunswick Bowling Center and two Topgolf Swing Suite bays, as well as other social games.
Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation Representative and Oneida Indian Nation CEO, was named a Top 30 CEO in Indian Country by Native Business Magazine. His profile originally appeared in our 2019 Leadership issue.