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Friday, December 15, 2006

Gambling in New York

Phil Mansfield for The New York Times
Monticello Gaming and Raceway currently offers
electronic gambling machines. A new Las Vegas-style
casino would include table games like blackjack and roulette.

Casino Plan for Catskills Moves Closer to Reality With Interior Department’s Approval

Published: December 15, 2006

After more than 10 years of delays, tribal recriminations and opposition from Atlantic City gambling interests, the effort to build a Las Vegas-style casino in the Catskills took a major step forward yesterday.

The Interior Department approved an environmental review of the St. Regis Mohawk Indian tribe’s $600 million project. Proponents say the casino will bring thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in revenue to a once thriving resort area known as the Borscht Belt.

James E. Cason, the associate deputy secretary for Indian affairs at the Interior Department, said yesterday that he was notifying the Mohawks, whose reservation straddles the Canadian border, that the agency determined that the proposed casino on 30 acres next to the racetrack outside Monticello in Sullivan County would not have a significant environmental impact.

The longtime harness racing track, owned by Empire Resorts, which would build the new casino, is currently the site of Monticello Gaming and Raceway. It now features more than 1,500 electronic gambling machines, including video poker, where patrons can wager from pennies to $10. A similar setup with the electronic machines is in place just north of New York City at Yonkers Raceway, which is about 85 miles southeast of Monticello.

“It’s a step in what’s been a long process for Monticello,” Mr. Cason said of the casino, which would include table games like blackjack, roulette, craps and the more traditional slot machines as well as the current electronic ones.

Mr. Cason, who said “there is not an environmental impediment” to the new casino in Monticello, added that he was sending a notice to Gov. George E. Pataki, who has long supported Indian casinos in the Catskills, asking him to concur.

As recently as May 25, Mr. Pataki urged the Interior Department to expedite its review of the Mohawk casino, which he “strongly supports.” A spokesman for the governor said yesterday that Mr. Pataki, who leaves office in two weeks, had not yet received the notification.

The federal determination formally revives a project that first received approval in April 2000, when the Interior Department ruled that a casino at the racetrack would be a boon to both the tribe and the surrounding communities.

“This is great news for the Mohawk people, as well as the people of Sullivan County who have been waiting for this project to become a reality for well over 10 years now,” Chief Lorraine M. White of the Mohawks said yesterday.

The next step in that reality is for the Mohawks and New York State to amend a gambling compact and revenue-sharing agreement before construction can begin. The tribe may also have to fend off a lawsuit by environmentalists.

While Mr. Pataki, a Republican, is expected to send a concurrence letter before he leaves office, the compact negotiations would presumably fall to the incoming governor, Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, who has generally said he supports tribal casinos in the Catskills.

The Catskills will do booming business with city customers and will help AC improve the level of their game.

They need to be at the level of Vegas casinos and they aren't. With more competition, they may make long needed improvements.

posted by Steve @ 1:55:00 AM

1:55:00 AM

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