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Kris
May 4th, 2004, 12:31 AM
May 4, 2004

Cayuga Tribe Moves Closer To a Casino In the Catskills

By CHARLES V. BAGLI

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The developers plan to open what they call a racino at Monticello Raceway on June 30. It would have 1,800 video slot machines and would be called Mighty M Gaming.

The New York Cayugas and the owners of the Monticello Raceway have received a crucial approval that could put them closer than any other tribes and developers to opening a casino in the Catskills.

The eastern office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs last week recommended approval of the plan to build a $500 million Las Vegas-style casino on 30 acres at the raceway, a faded harness track that is widely regarded as a potential gambling gold mine because it is only 90 miles northwest of New York City.

There is no guarantee that the Cayugas and their partners, Empire Resorts, will be successful in turning that approval into a casino. After all, the Catskills have become a kind of Bermuda Triangle for Indian casino deals, despite Gov. George E. Pataki's oft-stated support for gambling in former resort areas.

But the Cayugas' supporters say that full approval is almost certain to follow the recommendation and that settlement talks with the Pataki administration have been going well.

"It's a very good step," said Timothy Twoguns, the Turtle Clan representative to the Cayuga Nation Council. "We're trying to see this through, and I believe the state wants to reach that end as well. This recommendation from the Bureau of Indian Affairs really goes a long way."

Todd Alhart, a spokesman for Governor Pataki, said yesterday: "The state is encouraged by the proposed findings and awaits a final decision by the assistant secretary of Indian affairs."

Under the proposal, the Cayuga Catskill Resort and Casino would be built on 30 acres owned by Empire Resorts next to the raceway in Sullivan County. The proposal involves the relatively rare arrangement in which the federal government allows private land to be put into federal trust for a tribe, to be used for a casino; the Cayugas are landless.

The Cayugas and Empire Resorts still need approval from the full Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, the National Indian Gaming Commission and Governor Pataki. The governor has linked casino approval to a settlement of the tribe's claim to 64,000 acres at the northern tip of Lake Cayuga. Opponents of gambling also continue their legal challenges against casinos.

The St. Regis Mohawks, the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans, the Wisconsin Oneidas and the New York Oneidas have eagerly ventured into the Catskills, hand in hand with their respective developers, only to have the projects bog down in Albany.

Still, many continue to try. Local politicians and many residents hope that gambling will bring an economic boom to a depressed area once known as the borscht belt. Analysts believe that a Catskills casino, unlike the Indian casinos already operating in upstate New York, could reap $1 billion a year in revenue and lure gamblers away from Atlantic City.

The 14-page analysis issued last week by the eastern regional office of the bureau recommends that the land at the raceway be taken into trust for the benefit of the Cayugas. The office made a two-part determination that the casino would mean jobs and income for both the tribe, which claims about 475 members, and the local community. If the bureau agrees, it would send a letter to Governor Pataki approving the casino project and asking for his agreement.

The bureau has approved a so-called land-into-trust application only a handful of times since 1988, when Congress approved establishing casinos on tribal land. One of the earlier approvals involved Monticello Raceway and the same developer now working with the Cayugas, Robert Berman, chief executive of Empire Resorts.

Mr. Berman's history is an illustration of just how complicated the path to a casino opening can be. He has tried to open an Indian casino in Sullivan County for a decade, motivated in part by a desire to help revive the county where he grew up. His company, then called Catskill Development, signed an agreement with the St. Regis Mohawks and spent four years obtaining federal approval.

Tentative approval was granted in April 2000 by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. A week later, the Mohawks renounced their partners and signed an exclusive arrangement with what is now known as Caesars Entertainment, the largest gambling company in the world.

Caesars' executives then sought federal approval for a casino at Kutscher's Sports Academy in Monticello, saying they expected the get approval within four months. Four years later, that has yet to happen, although Caesars executives and Mohawk tribal leaders were in Sullivan County last week to describe their plans for a $600 million casino.

Mr. Berman and his group's casino project, meanwhile, were left for dead. Several of his partners in the deal, at a company called Alpha Hospitality, were indicted on tax-evasion charges in connection with a separate hotel company. Mr. Berman severed ties to those men, reorganized the company and established a new board of directors, whose chairman is David Matheson, a member of the Cour d'Alene tribe and a former deputy commissioner for Indian affairs at the Interior Department.

A year ago, Mr. Berman's company struck a deal with a new tribe, the Cayugas, a federally recognized tribe that has no reservation, and restarted the approval process.

"This time I think we'll get there," Mr. Berman said yesterday. "At the end of the day, it really is the governor's will that drives this."

The Cayuga project has the support of the mayor of Monticello, Jim Barnicle. The Cayugas and Empire are still at odds, though, with the Sullivan County Legislature and the nearby town of Thompson, which are demanding that the Cayuga casino agree to pay $15 million a year to offset the effect on law enforcement, traffic, schools and social services. The Mohawks and the Stockbridge Munsees have agreed to similar deals with the county.

Mr. Berman has insisted he is standing by a prior deal to pay $5 million a year, a position supported by the bureau in a letter last month to the county.

Meanwhile, Empire Resorts is bringing a form of gambling to the racetrack next month. On June 30, the company plans to open a so-called racino that will be called Mighty M Gaming, with 1,800 video slot machines. In preparation, they are renovating the track and hiring more than 400 people.

Video slot machines were approved for harness tracks in the state under legislation passed in October 2001. The legislation also authorized the governor to negotiate with Indian tribes for six casino resorts, three in western New York and three in the Catskills.

The Seneca tribe signed an agreement with the state in September 2002 and opened its first casino in Niagara Falls on New Year's Eve 2002 and its second, outside Buffalo, last weekend. Little has happened in the Catskills, however, despite intense interest from well-connected developers, a half dozen tribes and politicians who are eager for jobs and revenue.

"We're very frustrated that we don't have a casino in the Catskills," said State Senator John J. Bonacic, a Republican from New Paltz. "Maybe the pressure is finally building up on the governor."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company


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Kris
June 10th, 2004, 10:18 PM
June 11, 2004

Catskills Casino Advances in Deal Between Tribe and State

By CHARLES V. BAGLI

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A casino proposed for Monticello, N.Y., would be the closest one to New York City.

A $500 million Las Vegas-style casino in the Catskills moved significantly closer to reality yesterday when the Pataki administration signed an agreement with the Cayuga Indian Nation, settling the tribe's 200-year-old claim to 64,000 acres in upstate New York in exchange for casino revenues.

If it is built, the casino in Monticello in Sullivan County will be the closest one to New York City, only 90 miles away, and will dwarf the four Indian gambling halls already operating in the state. With analysts estimating that it could pull in $1 billion a year in revenues, the casino would likely pose significant competition to the Atlantic City gambling resort and the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut.

The agreement is a major step forward in a 30-year effort to use gambling to revive the Catskill Mountains resort area once known as the borscht belt.

"The agreement would allow us to move forward with plans to establish the first of three new casinos in the Catskills, which would create thousands of new jobs and provide a tremendous boost to the region's economy," Gov. George E. Pataki said in a statement released yesterday afternoon.

The Pataki administration has been negotiating for years to settle land claims with a half-dozen New York tribes, hoping to use the promise of casinos, rather than taxpayer dollars, to persuade tribes to drop their claims. Under yesterday's agreement, the Cayugas will drop most of their claim to land at the northern end of Cayuga Lake in exchange for $247.9 million over 14 years, beginning in 2007 when the casino is scheduled to open. The money will come from a percentage of the slot machine revenues the tribe agreed to turn over to the state every year.

The tribe will also be allowed to purchase up to 10,000 acres within the claim area. Both sides agreed to seek federal legislation ratifying their agreement.

Three years ago, a federal court ruled that the state illegally purchased Indian tribal land more than 200 years ago and awarded $247.9 million to the Cayugas and the Seneca Cayugas of Oklahoma. Both sides appealed the decision.

The agreement calls for the state and the Cayugas to pay Seneca and Cayuga Counties $3 million a year each for 21 years out of gambling revenues, and to establish price parity with local businesses, concessions designed to make the deal more palatable to non-Indians in the area affected by the land settlement. Businesses near Indian reservations, which are sovereign land and not subject to local, state or federal taxes, have long complained that they were undercut by cheap Indian gasoline, alcohol and cigarettes. The tribe has agreed not to undersell local competitors.

Rich Ricci, a leader of leader of one opposition group, Upstate Citizens for Equality, was not mollified.

"We're not going to stand by and get steamrolled," Mr. Ricci said. "The government spent 24 years discussing the tribe's right of self-determination. But when it came to the settlement, they gave very little consideration to the rights of legitimate landowners and taxpayers in Seneca and Cayuga Counties."

But many political and tribal leaders in the area said their concerns had been addressed. Timothy Twoguns, a representative of the Cayuga Nation, said in a statement that he was gratified by the proposed settlement, which he said, would "enable the Cayuga people to establish itself in its traditional lands, which it lost more than 200 years ago."

In 2001, the state Legislature approved the development of three tribal casinos in the Catskills and three near Niagara Falls. Two casinos have opened in Niagara Falls, but little has happened in the Catskills, which is regarded by gambling analysts as a potential goldmine because of its proximity to New York City.

In Sullivan County, the pending settlement means that a casino may finally open after years of rumors, promises and disappointments, although the Cayugas and their partners, Empire Resorts, still have negotiating to do. The amount to be paid to Sullivan County is also still under negotiation.

A month ago, the Cayugas obtained preliminary approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs for a plan to build a $500 million casino on 30 acres next to Empire's Monticello Raceway, a harness track that has been struggling. Robert Berman, chief executive of the company, has spent more than a decade trying to build an Indian casino at the racetrack. In 19 days, Empire is opening a so-called racino at the Raceway with 1,800 video slot machines.

But as much as they want a casino, Sullivan County leaders have demanded that Empire and the Cayugas pay the county $15 million a year to offset the effects of the gambling operation, which they say would require more police, schools and road work. Two of the six tribes that have attempted to develop casinos in Sullivan County have agreed to that number. But Mr. Berman maintains that he has a pre-existing deal with Monticello to pay $5 million.

"It's clearly a step forward in bringing casino gambling to Sullivan County," said Chris Cunningham, chairman of the Sullivan County Legislature. "We look forward to negotiating a local service agreement to mitigate the impacts that we've identified in a mutually beneficial way."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Kris
June 26th, 2004, 08:48 PM
June 27, 2004

OUR TOWNS

Taste of Tahoe in Borscht Belt: Here's the Tab

By PETER APPLEBOME

MONTICELLO, N.Y.

Panorama: Mighty M Gaming at Monticello Raceway (http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/nyregion/20040627_MONTICELLO_PANO/index_qtvr.html)

THEY held a party here Thursday night at Carpenito's restaurant to celebrate a day many people thought would never come. The old, bedraggled Monticello Raceway will reopen Wednesday as Mighty M Gaming at Monticello Raceway, the first gambling emporium in what many people hope will be a new era of casino gambling in the Catskills. Goodbye Concord and Grossinger's. Hello Cayugas and Mohawks.

"I bought this restaurant 16 years ago thinking that one day we'd have casinos here, but I had no idea what it would take to make it happen," said Jimmy Carpenito, at a party for the workers who built the new casino, which will feature 1,800 video lottery terminals, which are virtually identical to slot machines. "I feel like a white elephant has turned into a golden goose."

Cliff Ehrlich, Mighty M's senior vice president, has waited even longer. His family, which used to own the old Pines Hotel, has been working for 30 years to bring a casino here.

Mighty M, part of the state program to allow lottery terminals at existing racetracks, is billed as the hors d'oeuvre before the main course: casinos, which are still the subject of negotiations between at least three Indians tribes and local, state and federal officials. First up is supposed to be the $500 million casino that the Cayugas and Empire Resorts, Mighty M's owner, plan to build at the raceway site.

But a funny thing has happened on the slow ride from borscht belt to slots belt. Increasingly, despite local officials' cheerleading for the casinos, there are voices in Sullivan County here, and in neighboring Ulster and Orange, asking if the radical surgery of megacasinos is the way to save a patient who is already beginning to jump up and dance.

Indeed, while officials have lobbied for casinos as a way to bring back the glory days of the old resort hotels, much of the Catskills has been in the midst of a renaissance attributable to second-home buyers, refugees from the city and the overflow from rapidly developing Orange next door.

When a public hearing was held on casino development last week, almost all the speakers were opponents. So whether Mighty M is the first chapter in a preordained new era or just an opening bid in a hand still to play out isn't at all clear.

"The real estate market has been good and really building over the past three years," said Peter Belgard, who heads a successful real estate business and has not been active, pro or con, in local casino politics. "I personally think this area will do fine whether or not we have gambling. We joke at lunch that if it happens we'll make a lot of money and then we'll have to move because we won't be able to live here anymore."

The case for the casinos is simple, and a visit to the decrepit downtowns in Monticello and Liberty, with their boarded-up ghosts of the old days, can make it seem compelling. If the Catskills died a slow death as the old hotels faded away, the way to bring visitors back is to do what has drawn millions of visitors to Atlantic City and Foxwoods, only closer to New York and with the spectacular Catskills scenery thrown in.

Charles Degliomini, a spokesman for Empire Resorts, said the model was more Lake Tahoe than Atlantic City, and many people with roots here think casinos can complement the natural attractions of the area.

"What I'd like is something that would meld the concept of the old days and something like Las Vegas, make it a family destination like it used to be," said Richard Gold, who grew up in Liberty and works in New York as an interior designer. "I don't see any other alternative right now."

But others say that the model of 30 years ago, before the second home boom, before telecommuting, before 9/11, is not the right model now. And they say that the casino industry's own projections present a nightmare scene of hellish traffic, overcrowded schools and uncontrolled growth.

A STUDY commissioned by the county by Spectrum Gaming, an industry consultant, projects that three full-scale casinos would produce 18,000 new workers in a county that now has 30,000, and add 5,000 students to schools that are already overcrowded. It also estimates that the casinos would result in 2.7 million more car trips a year, 80 percent along Route 17, the main road into the Catskills from New York.

This in an area that has prospered as a slower, quieter, alternative to the Hamptons and other getaways and where unemployment is now lower than it is in about two-thirds of the counties in the state.

Casino opponents know they're late - maybe too late - to organize. But they say the casino cure is worse than the disease.

"There's a difference between growth and sustainable economic development,'' said Richard Riseling, who owns a farm in Callicoon Center, northwest of Monticello. "If I put on 40 pounds, that's growth, but it doesn't mean that's a good thing. Casinos are not going to bring the glory days back to Sullivan County. The glory of Sullivan County is a magnificent physical ecology that needs to be preserved. There's nothing glorious about having a casino."

E-mail: peappl@nytimes.com

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Kris
November 19th, 2004, 07:14 AM
November 19, 2004

Catskills Casinos Are Closer After Land Claim Accord

By KIRK SEMPLE

Gov. George E. Pataki and the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York announced an agreement yesterday to settle the tribe's 200-year-old claim to 64,000 acres in central New York in exchange for the right to operate a casino, moving the long-debated idea of casino gambling in the Catskills closer to reality.

The deal came six days after Governor Pataki announced a similar agreement between the state and the Seneca-Cayuga tribe of Oklahoma, which was also a party to the same land claim and is trying to build its own casino in the Catskills.

The New York Cayugas are planning to build a $500 million, Las Vegas-style casino next to a raceway in Monticello in Sullivan County, 90 miles from New York City. It would dwarf the four Indian casinos already operating in New York and, according to analysts, could pull in an estimated $1 billion a year in revenues, posing significant competition to the Atlantic City gambling resorts and the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut.

The Seneca-Cayugas are still discussing the design and location of a casino. Robert A. Berman, chief executive of Empire Resorts, the tribe's development partner, said he was encouraging the tribe to consider developing the Concord Resort Hotel at Kiamesha Lake, which closed in 1998.

The two agreements - which emerged after years of negotiations, administrative procedure and litigation - represent the most progress anyone has made in the 30-year effort to use gambling to revive the Catskill Mountains resort area.

But the deals still require the approval of both the State Legislature and Congress. In recent years, the Pataki administration has announced gambling agreements with various tribes, only to see them collapse.

A tentative agreement in June between the New York Cayugas and Governor Pataki that would have opened the door to a casino development collapsed in July when the tribe rejected a settlement offer in the land-claim lawsuit, which involved land in Cayuga and Seneca Counties. Negotiations stalled for months, but resumed after the Seneca-Cayugas reached an agreement with the state that was announced last Friday.

The Pataki administration said yesterday that it did not anticipate any more pitfalls in the path of the two deals. "We're confident that we can get the necessary approvals to move this process forward," said Todd Alhart, a spokesman for Governor Pataki.

Republican and Democratic state legislators have berated the Pataki administration for not moving fast enough to bring casinos to the Catskills. But yesterday, some Congressional officials said they felt the Pataki administration had rushed the Cayuga deal without proper consultation with either local residents or the state's Congressional delegation.

"It's been done in a very hurried and, I would say, haphazard kind of way," said Representative Maurice D. Hinchey, a Democrat whose district includes Sullivan County.

A spokesman for Senator Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat, said that while the senator supported the casinos in the Catskills, the agreements were not ready for full Congressional review.

"The communities in Seneca, Cayuga and Sullivan counties have not yet reached consensus given the short amount of time they were given to look at this, and we want to make sure their needs are fully protected before moving forward," said the spokesman, Blake Zeff.

Both officials said they doubted that there was enough time - or willingness on the part of the New York Congressional delegation - to push the bills through Congress before the end of its session.

Mr. Berman, however, dismissed the congressmen's complaints, saying, "The underlying projects are something the delegation has been aware of for years."

The Pataki administration says the two casino projects will create thousands of new jobs and improve the economy of the Catskills region.

The Pataki administration has been negotiating for years to settle land claims with half a dozen New York tribes, hoping to use the promise of casinos, rather than taxpayer dollars, to persuade tribes to drop their claims.

Under the agreement announced yesterday, the state will be allowed to continue with its appeal of a federal court ruling from 2001 that awarded $247.9 million to the Cayugas and the Seneca-Cayugas to redress the state's illegal purchase of Indian tribal land more than 200 years ago. The Seneca-Cayugas are based in northeastern Oklahoma but trace their lineage to lands in New York.

If the award is affirmed on appeal, the agreement sets a cap of $150 million on what the state will have to pay the New York Cayugas and permits the New York Cayugas to purchase 10,000 acres within the claim area.

But if the award is not upheld, the state will not pay anything to the Cayugas and the tribe will not be entitled to purchase more than 2,500 acres in the claim area, the agreement said.

The deal also requires the state and the Cayugas to pay $3 million annually to Seneca and Cayuga Counties and to negotiate price parity on sales of alcohol, cigarettes, gasoline and other products by Indian vendors to non-Indians.

In its separate agreement with the state, the Seneca-Cayugas decided to end its litigation against the state and relinquish any interest it has in the $247.9 million judgment it obtained in 2001. The tribe also agreed to reimburse the state any final monetary judgment awarded to the New York Cayugas in the land claim litigation.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Kris
December 7th, 2004, 12:32 AM
December 7, 2004

Pataki Seeks to Expand Indian Casinos in Catskills

By MICHAEL COOPER and KIRK SEMPLE

ALBANY, Dec. 6 - With New York State facing large deficits and a court order requiring it to spend billions more on education, Gov. George E. Pataki said on Monday that he would like to allow Indian tribes to open a total of five Las Vegas-style casinos in the Catskills, two more than are authorized by state law.

"I think five makes perfectly good sense," Mr. Pataki said on Monday, as the State Legislature returned to Albany to try to wrap up a contentious year.

Mr. Pataki made the announcement as the state is struggling to find ways to comply with a court order that it sharply increase education financing for New York City schools. Three court-appointed referees estimated last week that the cost of compliance could be an additional $23 billion over the next five years.

For the governor, allowing two more casinos in the Catskills could solve several problems at once. It could help the state come up with millions of dollars in revenue, as the state typically gets one-fourth of all slot machine proceeds in the casinos it allows. And it would give the Pataki administration a bargaining point as it tries to persuade a number of Indian tribes to drop their multimillion-dollar land claim suits against New York State.

But the first influx of Catskill gambling money could still be years away: since 2001, when the state moved to allow three Indian casinos in the Catskills, not a single one has opened. The proposed casinos have been delayed by disputes between Indian tribes, fights between developers and hurdles at the local level.

Governor Pataki's call for allowing two more casinos in the Catskills fueled speculation that has been growing in the Capitol in recent weeks that he might try to carry New York through its fiscal straits by taking the state further into debt - issuing bonds to be backed by anticipated casino revenues.

The governor's aides said there were absolutely no plans to borrow against casino revenues. "There is nothing to that," said Kevin Quinn, a spokesman for Mr. Pataki.

But in the Legislature, two Democrats and a Republican said that they had heard talk that the state could try to borrow against the revenue, just as it borrowed against its share of the proceeds of a national lawsuit against tobacco companies. "It's out there," one Republican said.

Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat, said, "It is my understanding that the governor's proposal is again to borrow, but this time against these new revenue streams."

Such a proposal could be a hard sell. The state has already been criticized by fiscal watchdogs for borrowing money to cover its operating expenses, and several groups, including the Assembly Democrats and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, said they were uneasy with Governor Pataki's previous proposal to use gambling revenue to pay for education. The governor had originally called for using the money from video lottery terminals that are in use at racetracks to pay for the increased cost of education.

And winning approval for two more casinos in the Catskills could be difficult.

Senator John J. Bonacic, a Republican who represents the Catskill area, said that he hoped there would be no rush to approve the extra casinos.

"I don't believe at this time that the people in Sullivan County would like to rush from three to five casinos," he said. "We've been waiting since 2001 to have one operating. We'd like to see the first three get built, and then see the impact on the county."

The state decided to allow the first three casinos to open when the Legislature passed a broad expansion of legalized gambling a month after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The bill called for opening three casinos in western New York and three in the Catskills, and paved the way for allowing slot-machine style video lottery terminals at several racetracks.

But the Catskill casinos were always considered to be the most lucrative prizes, as they would be near New York City and could compete with the Atlantic City and Connecticut gambling attractions.

"Certainly the Catskills is an area that has been a historic resort community that has attracted millions of people from not just New York, but from across the country," Mr. Pataki said on Monday.

Charles A. Degliomini, vice president of Empire Resorts Inc., which is based in Monticello, N.Y., said on Monday that five casinos are economically better than three. "It creates a critical mass, it creates a destination," he said. "Gamblers like to go places where there are different opportunities to stay at one place, but visit other places. Some guys like to change their luck."

Empire Resorts predicted that five casinos in the Catskills would draw about 30 million people a year.

As the governor spoke, his aides were negotiating with several Indian tribes and casino development groups. The governor announced deals last month with the Seneca-Cayuga Indians of Oklahoma, who trace their lineage to New York, and the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York, that essentially settled their land claims against the state in exchange for the right to build casinos in the Catskills. Those deals still need the approval of the United States Congress and the State Legislature.

Both groups have development deals with Empire Resorts, which owns three properties: Monticello Raceway, the Concord Resort Hotel at Kiamesha Lake and Grossinger's.

The New York Cayugas are planning to build a $500 million casino next to the raceway, located in Sullivan County, 90 miles from New York City. The Seneca-Cayugas are still discussing the location of theirs. Robert A. Berman, chief executive of Empire Resorts, the tribe's development partner, has said he is encouraging the tribe to consider developing the Concord, which closed in 1998.

The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, which has a development agreement with Caesars Entertainment, intends to build a casino at Kutsher's Sports Academy in Monticello, though the tribe is still trying to get state and federal approval.

The negotiations on Monday appeared to be aimed at casino deals with the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans, a Wisconsin tribe, and with the Oneida Indians of Wisconsin, officials said.

The current round of negotiations poses a challenge to the Oneida Indian Nation of New York, which objects to the state's decision to reach deals with tribes based outside New York. The tribe operates the highly profitable Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Central New York and could lose customers if five new casinos open in the Catskills.

Mark F. Emery, a spokesman for the tribe, said: "It doesn't make any difference who's included in the five if there are out-of-state Indians included. The profits are going to be going out of state, and that doesn't benefit New York. It opens up the floodgates to other out-of-state Indian nations wanting to come here and to problems of tribal sovereignty here."

Michael Cooper reported from Albany for this article and Kirk Semple from White Plains.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Kris
December 8th, 2004, 09:17 AM
December 8, 2004

2 More Tribes Drop Claims in Exchange for Casinos

By KIRK SEMPLE

MONTICELLO, N.Y., Dec. 7 - Gov. George E. Pataki announced two agreements on Tuesday that seek to settle centuries-old land claims by two Indian tribes in exchange for permission to develop casinos in the Catskill Mountains.

The deals were brokered with the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin and the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, Band of Mohican Indians, also of Wisconsin. Both tribes trace their ancestry to New York.

The agreements came less than a month after Mr. Pataki announced similar arrangements with two other tribes, the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York and the Seneca-Cayuga Indians of Oklahoma, which are also seeking to operate casinos in the Catskills. A fifth land claim settlement, which could pave the way for another casino operated by the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, is still subject to a tribal referendum.

But the vision of five shimmering Vegas-style casinos rising out of the Catskills could still be years away - or may never happen. For the settlements to move forward, the State Legislature would have to pass a bill increasing the allowed number of casinos above three, the number currently permitted by law. The deals also require the approval of the Legislature and Congress and must clear local regulatory hurdles.

The Pataki administration has been negotiating for years to settle land claims with numerous New York tribes, hoping to use the promise of casinos, rather than taxpayer dollars, to persuade tribes to drop their claims.

Mr. Pataki has argued that casinos in the Catskills would boost the region's downtrodden economy by creating thousands of jobs and a stream of local revenue.

The announcement Tuesday also comes as the state is seeking ways to comply with a court order requiring it to a drastic increase in education financing for New York City schools. The four signed deals all assure the state revenue and guarantee the state about 25 percent of proceeds from slot machines at the casinos.

Mr. Pataki, in a prepared statement, said on Tuesday, "I call upon the Legislature and Congress to act quickly to pass the legislation necessary to implement these agreements and end once and for all the decades of unrest and uncertainty that has resulted from the land claim litigation."

Mr. Pataki expressed interest on Monday in increasing the number of casinos allowed in the Catskills to as many as five.

In addition to the four Indian tribes who have already brokered provisional deals with the state in the past few weeks, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe has a preliminary agreement with the state that is still subject to a tribal referendum. The tribe has a casino development agreement with Caesars Entertainment and intends to build a casino at Kutsher's Sports Academy here, in Sullivan County.

But passing a bill that would allow so many casinos in the Catskills could be difficult, particularly since all five casinos under discussion could be located in Sullivan County.

Numerous elected officials who represent Sullivan at the local, state and national levels have in recent days criticized the speed with which Mr. Pataki has been sealing the deals. Even some local casino boosters are wary.

"It's scary," said Sam Wohl, a Sullivan County legislator and a casino supporter, in an interview on Tuesday. "Is five too much? Is three enough? We're worried about overkill."

Local officials say they are concerned whether the infrastructure can handle five casinos, the tens of thousands of workers and their families and the projected annual traffic, by some estimates, of about 30 million gamblers a year.

They have also criticized the governor for the sudden flurry of Indian deals, saying there has not been sufficient consultation with the local governments.

"The governor's office is leaving us in the dark," said Christopher Cunningham, chairman of the Sullivan County Legislature.

The agreements announced Tuesday clear the two tribes' long-standing claims to nearly 300,000 acres in Oneida and Madison Counties in central New York, which they say were improperly acquired from them.

The tribes have also agreed to assume any liability sought by the Oneida Indian Nation of New York in its claim to ancestral land in the state.

Under the agreements, the Stockbridge-Munsees would operate their casino on a 333-acre site they own in the Town of Thompson, near here. The Wisconsin Oneidas were still trying to determine where they would build their casino, the governor's office said.

Both tribes have also agreed that all state and local taxes would apply to retail goods and services sold on their properties.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Kris
December 20th, 2004, 01:26 AM
December 20, 2004

Proposal to Allow Five Casinos Reignites an Old Catskill Debate

By KIRK SEMPLE

MONTICELLO, N.Y., Dec. 15 - "You want to know what I feel?" The woman's voice, calm yet pointed, came from behind a rack of clothes in the thrift store of the United Methodist Church on Broadway. "I feel that the people have no idea what they're in for."

The woman, Diane Moss, emerged from behind the rack. She was short with frosted blond hair and a satiny-blue ski jacket, and her eyes burned with concern. Ms. Moss, 50, had been listening in on a conversation about the Indian casinos - as many as five, if Gov. George E. Pataki has his way - that are planned for the Catskills.

"I have family who live in Las Vegas," Ms. Moss continued. "I've seen the pawn shops, I've seen the wedding rings in the pawn shops, I've seen the downside, I've seen the prostitution on the street." The shop had gone silent. "The traffic is bad here," she said, "but we don't know traffic."

For years, surveys reflected that a majority of residents and officials supported bringing casinos to the Catskills. The proposals, to many people, seemed to promise rejuvenation for a fading summer hotspot.

The state has been talking with Indian tribes for years about building casinos in the area. A 2001 law permitting three casinos helped advance the idea.

In the past five weeks, however, Governor Pataki has engaged in a swirl of deal-making, signing separate agreements with four tribes that seek to settle their land claims against the state in return for giving them the right to operate casinos in the Catskills. In a two-day span last week, he announced the last two of those deals and also declared his interest in increasing the allowable number of casinos in the Catskills to five.

The casinos remain far from reality: The agreements must receive state and federal legislative approval and clear numerous regulatory barriers. Still, there has never been momentum like this before - and it has given many people pause around here, including some who lobbied hard for casinos.

"I think everybody's scared," said Anthony Cellini, supervisor of the Town of Thompson and a casino advocate. "Five casinos could be a problem."

Indeed, Governor Pataki's declaration that he would turn three casinos into five seemed to catch even Mr. Cellini and other Sullivan County public officials off guard. Local leaders said they had not been consulted by the Pataki administration on the matter of five casinos; they had only analyzed the possibility of three at most.

"Some of the sentiment I've been hearing locally is - maybe we should wait. Or maybe two and we should see," said Christopher A. Cunningham, chairman of the Sullivan County Legislature and an opponent of casinos. "But going from three to five without ever understanding what that would mean? It's like a really cold shower. People are just a little spooked by all that."

Of course, the notion of turning the Catskills into a gambling center has its local supporters, most notably the business community in Sullivan County, which, by and large, is giddy at the thought of five thriving casinos drawing an estimated 30 million people a year to the area.

Linval Morris, who owns a Caribbean restaurant on Broadway, the main commercial thoroughfare of Monticello, predicted that the casinos would create a boom in jobs and business development.

"This town needs to get up and go," he said.

Monticello was founded in 1804, and later designated the county seat. In the 19th century, it was a mercantile center and a way station for travelers along the Newburgh-Cochecton Turnpike connecting the Hudson and Delaware Rivers. It benefited from the rise of the Catskills as a resort during the 20th century, but fell into a slump as hotels closed and crowds dissipated.

Like the rest of the county, it has experienced an achingly slow resurgence in recent years as investors, in part because of the expectation of casinos, have purchased millions of dollars of property.

Broadway reflects this halting climb out of the doldrums. There is renovation under way with some storefronts getting makeovers. But for-sale signs are everywhere, the marquee of the Broadway Theater is dark, and several once-prominent properties - like Gager's Diner and Kaplan's Delicatessen - are shuttered.

Yet for all the turbulent debate surrounding the issue of gambling, in some ways it is only the latest version of an old conversation.

"We've been told that gambling was coming for so long, it's kind of like pie in the sky," said Patricia T. Burns, who manages the Sullivan County Museum in Hurleyville, several miles north of Monticello.

As she spoke in the museum's offices, a volunteer pulled an old newspaper from the archives. It was a copy of The Renaissance Reporter, which has since suspended publication. An article on the front page was headlined, "Casino Gambling: Yes or No?" The paper was dated Aug. 20, 1979.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Kris
December 26th, 2004, 01:14 AM
December 26, 2004

WESTCHESTER | LONG ISLAND

The Governor's Five-Casino Monte

This page has long felt that the state plan to allow three gambling casinos in the Catskills could mean real trouble for New York. Gov. George Pataki's latest rethinking of that idea - five casinos in the Catskills - certainly will not make things any better.

Mr. Pataki, who envisions a network of Indian-owned gambling parlors in the aging resort areas of Sullivan County, has apparently decided that the gambling business will solve a lot of problems in the short term. He and his advisers seem to be betting that the long-term headaches - the kinds seen in Atlantic City or Las Vegas or Connecticut over the years - will not happen on his watch. The plan is intended to bring jobs to an area that has been in an economic slump for decades. And if contracts between the state and the tribes are negotiated as advertised, there is the prospect of the state getting a cut of casino profits.

There are still many hurdles - state, federal and tribal - to clear before the first chip falls. But many are already growing understandably wary, even at the designated site for the nation's newest gambling hub. Anthony Cellini, supervisor of the Town of Thompson and a casino supporter, told The Times that people are getting nervous now that the number of casinos seems to be rising. "Five casinos could be a problem," he acknowledged in a clear example of understatement.

For gambling advocates and developers, five casinos is a jackpot. Having a cluster of gambling resorts in one area provides what a casino developer has called a critical mass. This particular critical mass would draw 30 million visitors a year to a leafy rural area about 90 miles from New York City. That's a lot of cars, a lot of buses, a lot of newly addicted gamblers, a lot more crime and instant poverty, more families in trouble, more pawnshops.

Beyond the question of whether the kind of development that comes with casinos would be in the long-term interest of the Catskills, there's the larger issue of whether the state should be balancing its budget with money from gambling, an enterprise that bears a host of social problems in its wake. Mr. Pataki and his successors in Albany may find that gambling fever exacts a very high price.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Kris
January 26th, 2005, 10:58 AM
January 26, 2005

OUR TOWNS

Waffling on Gambling in Catskills

By PETER APPLEBOME

Monticello, N.Y.

YOU would think that after a half-century of efforts to bring casinos to the Catskills, it wouldn't be that hard to discern just what people think of a proposal that could mean five casinos, 2.7 million more cars and, one assumes, the retirement forever of a phrase, the Borscht Belt.

But go to the second floor of the cavernous Sullivan County Government Center, which on a recent afternoon had the feel of a chilly Sam's Club or Costco minus the merchandise. There you'll find a county legislator, Ron Hiatt, sitting at his desk contemplating heaps of letters in rickety piles, some proclaiming casinos the salvation of the Catskills and others saying they are the agent of its doom.

The letters are arranged in stacks of pro and con, further divided by letters from inside his district and outside it, and they reflect the continuing avalanche of feedback in public forums, letters to the editor, mailings, e-mail messages, lobbying campaigns and chit-chat over breakfast at Tillie's or shopping at Wal-Mart.

Everyone in the Catskills, it seems, has an opinion on casinos, but whether it's the same opinion they had a year ago, whether it's reflected by local governing boards and just how to gauge it is anyone's guess. Mr. Hiatt, one of five county legislators in varying degrees of indecision about casinos (two others are pro and two are con), figures that one of the few things that's clear is that the nearer the decision comes, the more likely that public opinion is slipping and sliding all over the lot.

"It's like being gung-ho about the idea of going skydiving," he said. "Then all of a sudden you find yourself walking toward the plane with a parachute on your back, the engines roaring and the door open."

In the war of casino spin and counterspin, this is no small issue. It's hard to think of a proposal with more potential to transform an area than the one still taking shape a week before county legislators are expected to vote on it.

A consultant's report last May said that three casinos - the plan then - would mean 18,000 new workers in a county that now has 30,000, 5,000 new students in a county with schools already packed, 2.7 million more cars and 90,000 more buses a year, a population increase of 30 percent and countless changes in the area's social fabric.

All of which is why bubbling beneath the debate over whether to have casinos is another one: should residents of Sullivan County have a vote on having them?

Increasingly, residents, particularly those opposed, say if any proposal calls for a popular vote, this is it. Critics say casinos looked good when the old resort hotels began to die off and local boosters tried to come up with a way to recreate the hotels' success. But with its booming real estate market, post-9/11 refugees from New York City and a growing economy, Sullivan County is doing fine without casinos, the critics say.

"A lot of folks who years ago felt the area was desperate for something now see a growing economy and think maybe this isn't a panacea," said Chris Cunningham, chair of the County Legislature and one of the two announced casino opponents in the body. "And the proposal for five casinos changed the dynamic. One or two casinos wasn't perceived as overwhelming. Five, people are thinking, 'Do we really want to be the mini-Las Vegas of the East Coast?' "

He supports a referendum. Both Mr. Hiatt, and his office mate, Legislator Sam Wohl, a casino supporter, said they could support one. But everything gets murky from there. Would a referendum be on one casino? Three? Five? Would it be a nonbinding referendum before a legislative vote or a binding one to ratify it? And is there a legal mechanism for either? The county attorney is researching the issue, but it's not at all clear that the law provides for any kind of popular vote.

"Our research clearly indicates that New York State law does not permit doing this referendum," said Josh Sommers, a spokesman for the Catskills Casino Coalition. "In fact, particularly nonbinding referendums would be illegal."

In a deeply divided county - call it blue chips versus red ones - it is uncertain how a referendum would turn out. Mr. Wahl is fine with one because he thinks it would show support for casinos. And many pieces of the deals still need to be worked out.

But it's also clear there is titanic political and financial muscle behind the casino plan, from the casino interests, labor groups and the Pataki administration.

Opponents figure the best card they have to play might be an honest vote.

E-mail: peappl@nytimes.com

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Kris
January 31st, 2005, 06:22 AM
January 31, 2005

Catskill Casino Politics: Game of Delicate Balance

By KIRK SEMPLE

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2005/01/31/nyregion/31casino_650.jpg
In Sullivan County, one casino would be run by the St. Regis Mohawks and Caesars.

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/w.gifHITE PLAINS, Jan. 27 - Clint Halftown, a leader of the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York, sent a letter to Gov. George E. Pataki on Dec. 31, saying his tribe was scuttling the planned settlement of a hard-fought land claim only six weeks after it had been signed and ending the tribe's relationship with a casino development company in the Catskill Mountains.

Mr. Halftown's letter stunned everyone involved in the land-claim and casino negotiations. Elected officials, lobbyists and the developers scrambled to shore up the deal, part of a complex set of negotiations that Governor Pataki hoped will finally resolve most of the state's outstanding Indian claims to hundreds of thousands of acres and allow the construction of at least three, and as many as five, Las Vegas-style casinos in the Catskills.

Within a few days, another Cayuga leader, Gary Wheeler, issued a corrective letter on behalf of the tribal council saying that the council had not authorized Mr. Halftown's letter and that, in fact, the tribe was committed to the land-claim deal and to its contract with its casino development partner, Empire Resorts.

Mr. Wheeler said in an interview that the tribal council's four members would try to settle their differences this month; the governor's aides say the agreement is intact until the council says differently.

Still, the Cayuga discord reflects the vulnerability of the deals Mr. Pataki is trying to broker as the state moves closer than ever to resolving the land claims.

According to Pataki administration officials, the governor intends to submit a bill to the State Legislature that would settle most of the remaining Indian land claims and grant as many as five tribes permission to operate casinos in the Catskills.

In addition, the legislation - which could be submitted as early as this week - would seek to increase the allowable number of Catskill casinos to five from three.

If it is successful, the state will be relieved of billions of dollars in potential liability and clear the titles held by hundreds of thousands of homeowners, the governor argues. Only two smaller land claims by a federally recognized tribe, the Seneca Nation of Indians, would remain, officials said.

But with so many land claims, interests and players - including dozens of lawyers representing federal, state, county and tribal authorities; armies of lobbyists; and municipalities and citizen groups in the Catskills that want to control if and how casinos will materialize - the deal is far from a sure thing.

"I'm not saying that it's going to be easy, because the last five yards are always the worst in a game," said Richard Fields, a member of the development team that is working with the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, one of five tribes seeking to build a casino in the Catskills.

The complexity of the interlocking deals, negotiated by the governor's lawyers in relative secrecy, has bewildered elected officials and the public.

"There's a great lack of clarity and certainty about the deal: who it's good for, who it's bad for," Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Democrat whose district here in Westchester County would be a short trip to the proposed Catskill casinos, said in an interview. "What you have is a swirl of policies and politics and personalities that no one can get a handle on."

The existing Indian claims to lands once occupied by the tribes, which in some cases date to the 18th century, have been litigated and negotiated for decades. After years of frustration and little progress, however, the governor has engaged in flurry of deal-making in the past two months, announcing proposed land-claim settlements with four tribes.

On Nov. 12, Mr. Pataki and the Seneca-Cayuga tribe of Oklahoma announced an agreement to settle the tribe's claim to land in Seneca and Cayuga Counties in exchange for the right to operate a casino in the Catskills. The tribe is based in Miami, Okla., but traces its ancestry to the New York region.

Six days later, the governor and the Cayuga Nation, a landless New York tribe, announced an agreement to settle the tribe's claim to 64,000 acres in central New York. As with the Seneca-Cayugas, the governor agreed to allow the Cayugas to operate a casino in the Catskills. Both tribes are working with Empire Resorts, a casino development firm based in Monticello, N.Y.

But the governor was not through. On Dec. 6 he announced another two deals, this time with the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin and the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, Band of Mohican Indians, also of Wisconsin. Both tribes trace their ancestry to New York.

The Wisconsin Oneidas, based in Oneida, Wis., have been working with the Cordish Company, of Baltimore, to develop their casino plans; the Stockbridge-Munsees, based in Bowler, Wis., have retained Trading Cove Associates of Waterford, Conn.

The governor's negotiators are also ironing out the final details of a fifth agreement that would settle a land claim by the Akwesasne Mohawks, a tribe whose reservation straddles the New York-Canada border. Unlike the other four pacts, the proposed Mohawk deal would not include a casino component but would provide additional land for the reservations and tax and other benefits.

The tribe, a branch of the St. Regis Mohawks, is following an administrative process to get federal and state approval to build a casino with its partner, Caesars Entertainment, at the Kutsher's Sports Academy in Thompson, N.Y.

All five land-claim settlements require the approval of the State Legislature and United States Congress. Mr. Pataki intends to submit the Congressional version of the land-claims bill sometime in February, his aides said.

To make the bill more attractive to legislators from Sullivan County, where the five Indian casinos have been proposed, Mr. Pataki plans to require each of the casinos to undergo an environmental review and enter into local agreements with the host communities, the governor's aides said.

Sullivan County has already signed deals with two of the tribes that, among other provisions, would provide the county with annual payments of $15 million each.

The Legislature has already agreed to allow up to three casinos in Sullivan and Ulster Counties in the hope of rejuvenating the Catskill resorts. Sullivan County, 90 miles north of New York City, drew the early interest, and other developers, wanting to be part of a concentration of casinos, followed.

Mr. Pataki's aides say he believes that submitting all the land claims and casino elements together in an one bill would stand a greater chance of success than submitting them one by one. Supporters of this strategy hope the bill creates unstoppable momentum.

"If you do it piecemeal, it's always easier to find someone to shoot it down," Mr. Fields, the developer working on the Oneida project, said. One bill, he predicted, "is just going to roll through."

Indian tribes and casino developers say they have been told by state and federal officials that they would more likely meet eventual frustration by pursuing casinos through the administrative process, rather than through a Congressional bill, because federal regulators are growing averse to approving off-reservation casinos around the country.

In a series of open forums in recent weeks, community groups in the Catskills have been debating the merits of casinos and whether to support an increase in the number of allowable casinos from three to five.

At least two citizen groups, Casino-Free Sullivan County and Catskill Casino Coalition, have planted their flags on opposite sides, and casino opponents have begun to agitate for a countywide referendum.

The Sullivan County Legislature has not yet voted on whether to support Mr. Pataki's desire for five casinos but several towns nearest the proposed sites support the idea, and several others have voted against it.

Supporters of the increase say five casinos would help the region's economy. But opponents fear that casino visitors will overtax the region's infrastructure and exact social costs, like increases in crime. Others favor building no more than three casinos and evaluating their effect before deciding whether to add two more.

In an editorial published this month, The Times Herald-Record of Middletown, N.Y., wondered whether Mr. Pataki was running roughshod over the concerns of local communities to achieve his goal of a state free of Indian land claims. "Is the governor's plan for five casinos good for Sullivan County?" the editorial asked. "How much does he care?"

It remains unclear how the bill would fare in the State Legislature. Several officials said that the casino and land-claim issues still remained muddy to many legislators, and that only once the Sullivan County Legislature voted and Mr. Pataki presented his legislation would they finally bear down and study the issue.

"A lot of them just don't pay attention or they don't dig into the issue," said State Senator Frank Padavan, a Republican from Queens and one of the Legislature's most outspoken critics of gambling.

Even if the legislation passes in Albany, Congressional approval will not necessarily follow, especially as rival casinos take a stand against the Catskill deals.

"You have Vegas weighing in, you have Donald Trump, Atlantic City," predicted State Senator John J. Bonacic, a Republican and a staunch supporter of Mr. Pataki's casino plan, whose district includes Sullivan County. "This is not smooth sailing at the Congressional level."

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2005/01/31/nyregion/20050131_CASINOS_GRAPHIC.gif

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

normaldude
February 10th, 2005, 08:19 PM
February 10, 2005

Sullivan Legislature OKs plan for 5 casinos

By Steve Israel
Times Herald-Record

Monticello – At 5:24 p.m., as an orange sun set over the Catskill mountains, a new era dawned in Sullivan County.

The county Legislature voted 6-3 to approve Gov. George Pataki's plan for five Indian casinos. They all would be built in Sullivan.

The vote, before a standing-room-only crowd of some 300 cheering supporters and jeering opponents is the first step toward realizing the county's 40-year dream – or fear – of casino gambling.

State and national politicians also say it's the most important step. Without a "yes" vote, the state bill for five casinos could have died before it was introduced.

"This is the whole ball game right here," said state Sen. John Bonacic, R-C-Mount Hope, who will introduce the bill in Albany after he co-hosts two hearings that begin later this month.

Legislators Leni Binder, Jodi Goodman, Ron Hiatt, Greg Goldstein, Sam Wohl and Jonathan Rouis voted for the resolution to support the five-casino law. Chairman Chris Cunningham, Kathy LaBuda and Rodney Gabel voted against it. The vote came after a move by LaBuda to table the bill. That failed, 5-4, with Hiatt voting to table. He later switched his vote.

http://www.recordonline.com/archive/2005/02/10/webvote.htm

Jasonik
February 10th, 2005, 09:05 PM
Leaders in Catskills endorse plan for casinos

February 10, 2005, 7:31 PM EST

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ Sullivan County leaders endorsed a plan by Gov. George Pataki that would bring five Indian-run casinos to the Catskills as part of land claim settlements.
About 300 supporters and opponents of the proposal attended Thursday's meeting, which ended in the county Legislature's 6-3 vote.
"This is the whole ball game right here," said state Sen. John Bonacic, a Republican from Mount Hope who plans to introduce a bill in Albany later this month.
The plan needs state and congressional approval, and some lawmakers said they wouldn't move forward without local support for the casinos.
Earlier Thursday, the leading gambling opponent in the state Senate said the chamber's public hearings on the casinos could be a waste of time.
Sen. Frank Padavan, a Queens Republican, said past hearings on casinos have already produced a mountain of testimony from social workers, economists, law enforcement officials, family counselors and psychologists about the negative social impacts on communities of having nearby casinos.
Yet, state policy-makers want New York to become ever-more fiscally dependent on casinos and other forms of gambling, Padavan said.
"We just continue to keep on adding gambling venues and opportunities throughout the state," Padavan said. "It's not good economic or public policy. What these casinos will do in Sullivan County is create a Las Vegas in the Catskills, just without the prosperity."
Padavan's political leader in the Senate, Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, said Thursday the hearings will let the Senate decide how to act on Pataki's complex proposal to settle long-standing lands claims with five Indian tribes and to allow up to five Indian-run casinos open in the Catskills.
Five casinos would be two more than the state Legislature authorized in 2001 for the formerly prosperous resort region.
"Casinos could produce a tremendous amount of revenue for state and local governments to help fund education, health care, infrastructure needs and to help keep taxes down," Bruno said.
Like Pataki, Bruno said he does not personally like casinos. But both say they want New York gamblers to make their bets at casinos in New York state instead of Connecticut, New Jersey or in Las Vegas.
"Sullivan County's approval of the settlement proposal represents a major step forward in realizing an extraordinary opportunity to create tens of thousands of new jobs for the people of Sullivan County and revitalize the historic Catskills resort community," Pataki spokesman Todd Alhart said Thursday night. "Today's vote will help pave the way for the state Legislature to act expeditiously on this landmark legislation."
The public hearings on Pataki's proposal are planned for Albany on Feb. 28 and Monticello on March 3.
"Hopefully these hearings will be more than just for show, and allow citizens to be confident that even if they lose on this issue, at least the process was open, scrutinized and democratic," Padavan said. "I hope they aren't being fooled and that these hearings serve that purpose."
Democrats in the Assembly plan their own hearings on Pataki's proposals, but have not yet specified days and locations.


Copyright © 2005, The Associated Press

******
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TLOZ Link5
February 10th, 2005, 09:18 PM
I reserve the right to be skeptical until shovels are in the ground.

submachine
December 1st, 2005, 03:06 PM
November 29, 2005

ALBANY -- Delivering a crippling blow to a campaign to end government-sanctioned gambling, the U.S. Supreme Court Monday refused to hear a suit that challenged the state's constitutional right to approve casinos on Indian land.

The court's decision was a triumph for Gov. George Pataki, a Republican who has sought to dramatically expand casino gambling to help the state pay its bills.

The development also em– boldened gambling initiatives by Indian tribes throughout the state, and on Long Island, where the Shinnecock Indian Nation of Southampton is pursuing a legal claim to establish a casino in Hampton Bays.

While the court did not rule on the substance of the suit, gambling opponents agreed Monday that the court's move exhausted their legal remedies, especially after previous defeats in lower courts. The suit was initially filed in 2002.

"There's no place left to go," said Cornelius Murray, an Albany-based attorney who represented a coalition of anti-gambling groups in the case. "It's the proverbial end of the line."

The Court of Appeals, New York State's highest court, ruled in May that even though New York's constitution prohibits commercialized gambling, federal law supersedes local statutes by allowing exceptions for federally recognized Indian tribes.

"We're very pleased with the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the law, allowing us to continue creating the jobs and spurring economic development important to the people all across the state," said Saleem Cheeks, a Pataki spokesman.

Since 2001, when state revenues slowed following the 9/11 attacks, Pataki and the State Legislature have embraced casino gambling as a solution to balancing its books. That year the legislature approved a law allowing the governor to pen deals with Indian tribes authorizing casinos.

Earlier this year the governor proposed establishing five casinos in the Catskills but scaled the proposal back to one amid strong public opposition and a federal ruling in March that required the Oneida Indian Nation to pay taxes on land the tribe acquired outside of its federal reservation. The state now has four casinos.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, an upstate Republican, has also been an ardent supporter of casinos, arguing that the revenue can help the state generate billions of dollars it needs to address aid equity in public schools.

Bruno has said the state needs to capture revenue that is already headed out of New York to gambling centers in New Jersey and Connecticut.

For the Shinnecock, the certainty of a casino remains an open question. Earlier this month, a federal judge recognized the nation as a tribe, but the state has argued the Shinnecocks must be recognized by the U.S. Department of the Interior before the state could endorse a casino. The case is now headed to trial.

Outside of the courts, gambling opponents say they will continue to try to build public support against state-sponsored casinos. The state is turning to an easy answer and ignoring the social negatives of gambling, they say.

"People are going to have to wake up and realize this is a very destructive trend," said state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), one of the challengers in the case and a vocal critic of the state's efforts to use casino gambling as a way to increase revenue. "When they do that then the lawmakers are going to start to pay attention."
Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.

submachine
December 22nd, 2006, 12:23 AM
NY Times
December 15, 2006
Casino Plan for Catskills Moves Closer to Reality With Interior Department’s Approval

By CHARLES V. BAGLI (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/charles_v_bagli/index.html?inline=nyt-per)
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 (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/i/interior_department/index.html?inline=nyt-org) 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 (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/p/george_e_pataki/index.html?inline=nyt-per), 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 (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/r/republican_party/index.html?inline=nyt-org), is expected to send a concurrence letter before he leaves office, the compact negotiations would presumably fall to the incoming governor, Eliot Spitzer (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/eliot_l_spitzer/index.html?inline=nyt-per), a Democrat, who has generally said he supports tribal casinos in the Catskills.
Chief White said the tribe had already agreed to provide the state with up to 25 percent of the slot machine revenues and to collect sales taxes for the state. The Mohawks also agreed to provide Sullivan County and Monticello with $20 million a year.
The political climate nationally has turned against what are known as off-reservation casinos, with Senator John McCain (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/m/john_mccain/index.html?inline=nyt-per), a Republican from Arizona, leading an effort to curtail or even eliminate them. If the Monticello casino is built, it will be the fourth such casino established since the National Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed in 1988.
The Mohawk casino “may actually be the last off-reservation casino,” said Prof. I. Nelson Rose of Whittier Law School in California, an expert on Indian gambling.
There are currently four tribal casinos on reservations in New York. But for casino operators and the tribes, the prize has always been the Catskills, which is closer to New York City than either Atlantic City gambling or the two Indian casinos in Connecticut.
Empire Resorts says the casino in Monticello would attract 6.1 million visitors annually. Analysts estimate that it could take a 15 percent bite out of Atlantic City gambling revenues. “It’s exciting to get going,” said David P. Hanlon, the chairman of Empire.
Under federal law, Empire can transfer 30 acres to the tribe for a casino project. Empire would build and operate the casino under a contract with the Mohawks.
News of the latest move by the Interior Department was greeted with delight and relief by tribal chiefs on the Akwesasne Reservation and, 400 miles south, by officials in Sullivan County.
“This is great news,” said Anthony P. Cellini, supervisor of the Town of Thompson, which includes the village of Monticello. “It’s about time. This will have a major economic impact on the county. I think you’ll see an economic development explosion.”
There has been a burst of second-home construction in Sullivan County. But many of the hotels and bungalow colonies that were in the county in the 1940s and ’50s are gone. And along Broadway, the once bustling main road in Monticello, there are mostly vacant parking spaces and empty storefronts.
Not everyone is thrilled. The Natural Resources Defense Council (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/n/natural_resources_defense_council/index.html?inline=nyt-org) has said that the federal government failed to adequately assess the casino’s environmental impacts. Rosa Lee, treasurer of Casino-Free Sullivan County, said that a casino would generate road-clogging traffic, pollution and crime, ruining the bucolic environment that now exists.
“The paybacks the casinos are offering don’t begin to touch the impacts from the casino,” she said.
But elected officials like Senator Charles E. Schumer (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/charles_e_schumer/index.html?inline=nyt-per), Representative Maurice D. Hinchey, State Senator John J. Bonacic and Sullivan County legislators support the Mohawk plan.
If the project goes forward, it will be a victory for Empire Resorts and Robert Berman, a local resident who in 1994 conceived the idea. Mr. Berman suffered innumerable setbacks over the years, including a falling-out with the Mohawks in 2000, but always kept at it.
“After 12 long years, the federal approvals have been secured by Governor Pataki,” Mr. Berman said. “Now it’s at the state’s sole discretion whether thousands of jobs can be created and the Catskills can be revitalized.”

Peakrate212
January 23rd, 2007, 10:15 PM
They have been fighting for this for years - while almost every major hotel and resort withered and died - even the mighty Concord and Grossingers.

What could have been a booming resort area - and better than Foxwoods or Mohican Sun - is now a grave yard.

Dirty Dancing was the last breadth.

clubBR
February 19th, 2007, 09:04 PM
Spitzer Approves Plan for Indian Casino in Catskills


By CHARLES V. BAGLI (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/charles_v_bagli/index.html?inline=nyt-per)
Published: February 19, 2007

Gov. Eliot Spitzer (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/eliot_l_spitzer/index.html?inline=nyt-per) has approved plans for a $600 million Las Vegas-style casino in the Catskills for the St. Regis Mohawk tribe and agreed to lead the effort to win federal approval — the biggest step yet in a 30-year struggle to bring gambling to the faded resort area.
The governor signed a letter on Sunday concurring with an initial federal determination made in 2000 that the proposed casino at the Monticello Raceway would benefit the Mohawks and the residents of Sullivan County. He and the three governing chiefs of the Mohawks also signed a gambling compact that would provide state government with up to 25 percent of the annual revenues from 3,500 slot machines at the casino, a sum estimated at well more than $100 million a year.
Proponents contend that the casino would revive the economy of the old Borscht Belt, attracting 6 million visitors a year and generating 3,000 jobs and tens of millions of dollars in revenue. In a series of concessions by the tribe, the Mohawks have agreed to provide $20 million a year to the county and to Monticello to offset the impact of the casino and to collect and remit taxes from sales of liquor, cigarettes and other retail items at the casino.
But the National Resources Defense Council, the Sullivan County Farm Bureau and several other groups filed a suit in federal court in Manhattan last week challenging the casino on environmental grounds. And the project still needs final approval by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, the former governor of Idaho, who opposes Indian casinos on non-reservation land. The Mohawk casino would be built more than 400 miles from the tribe’s Akwesasne reservation, which straddles the Canadian border near Messena, N.Y.
Still, the Mohawks were optimistic about the project yesterday, and Governor Spitzer said he would lobby Mr. Kempthorne when he is in Washington next week for the national governors meeting. The governor said he would urge the department to move quickly to take the land into trust on behalf of the Mohawks under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, as it has for three other tribes since then.
“I will do everything I can to encourage expeditious review and approval,” Mr. Spitzer said yesterday. “The objective here is economic development. One casino, at a minimum, is good for the economy, good for the region.”
The casino, first proposed in 1994, would be built on a 29-acre parcel next to the track, which already has horse racing and 1,500 electronic gambling machines, including video poker. Governor Spitzer’s predecessor, George E. Pataki (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/p/george_e_pataki/index.html?inline=nyt-per), long supported Indian casinos for the Catskills, but had not completed negotiations for the gambling compact when he left office in December.
Chief Lorraine M. White, one of three governing chiefs for the Mohawks, said she was elated by Mr. Spitzer’s decision. “It’s a strong indication of the governor’s commitment toward not only developing a relationship with the tribe, but in terms of rebuilding the upstate economy,” she said.
Anthony P. Cellini, supervisor of the Town of Thompson, which includes Monticello, was in New York City yesterday for the State Association of Towns annual meeting when he heard the news. “That’s great,” Mr. Cellini said. “This is the furthest anyone’s ever gotten. I think we’ll see an explosion of growth.”
The owners of the longtime harness track, Empire Resorts, plan to put the land into federal trust for the tribe. Empire Resorts, in turn, would build and manage the casino for the Mohawks for up to seven years, with 70 percent of the net revenues going to the tribe.
“While casino gaming and entertainment has expanded and prospered in Atlantic City, Connecticut and now Pennsylvania, the Catskills was left behind,” said Charles Degliomini, a spokesman for Empire Resorts. “Now, thanks to Governor Spitzer, New York State finally gets a chance to put a shovel into the ground.”
Hotel owners and state officials have looked to gambling as the salvation of the Catskills, ever since the area’s tourist economy and 500 hotels and bungalow colonies began a slow, inexorable decline in the late 1960s. Former Gov. George E. Pataki touched off a land rush in and around Monticello in 1999 when he said he favored Indian casinos in former resort areas. Suddenly, well-connected developers hunted for tribal partners and bought large swaths of land and shuttered hotels like the Concord. But little headway was made.
More at: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/19/nyregion/20casinocnd.html

ZippyTheChimp
February 20th, 2007, 08:48 AM
February 20, 2007

Spitzer Backs Plan for Indian Casino in Catskills

By CHARLES V. BAGLI

Gov. Eliot Spitzer has approved plans for a $600 million Las Vegas-style casino in the Catskill Mountains for the St. Regis Mohawk tribe and agreed to lead the effort to gain federal approval. His decision is the biggest leap yet in a 30-year struggle to bring gambling to the faded resort area.

The governor signed a letter on Sunday concurring with an initial federal determination made in 2000 that the proposed casino at the Monticello Raceway would benefit the Mohawks and the residents of Sullivan County. He and the three governing chiefs of the Mohawks also signed a gambling compact that would provide the New York State government with up to 25 percent of the annual revenues from 3,500 slot machines at the casino, an amount estimated at more than $100 million a year.

Proponents contend that the casino would revive the economy of the old borscht belt, attracting six million visitors a year and generating 3,000 jobs and tens of millions of dollars in revenue. In a series of concessions by the tribe, the Mohawks have agreed to provide $20 million a year to the county and to Monticello to offset the impact of the casino and to collect and remit taxes from sales of liquor, cigarettes and other retail items at the casino.

But the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sullivan County Farm Bureau and several other groups filed a suit in federal court in Manhattan last week challenging the casino on environmental grounds. And the project still needs final approval by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, the former governor of Idaho, who opposes Indian casinos on nonreservation land. The Mohawk casino would be built more than 400 miles from the tribe’s Akwesasne reservation, which straddles the Canadian border near Messena, N.Y.

Still, the Mohawks were optimistic about the project yesterday, and Governor Spitzer said he would lobby Mr. Kempthorne in person when he is in Washington next week for the national governors meeting.

Mr. Spitzer said he would urge the Interior Department to move quickly to take the land into trust on behalf of the Mohawks under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, as it has for three other tribes since then.

“I will do everything I can to encourage expeditious review and approval,” Mr. Spitzer said yesterday. “The objective here is economic development. One casino, at a minimum, is good for the economy, good for the region.”

The casino, first proposed in 1994, would be built on a 29-acre parcel next to the harness racing track, which already has 1,500 electronic gambling machines, including video poker. Governor Spitzer’s predecessor, George E. Pataki, long supported Indian casinos for the Catskills, but had not completed negotiations for the gambling compact when he left office.

Chief Lorraine M. White, one of three governing chiefs for the Mohawks, said she was elated by Mr. Spitzer’s decision. “It’s a strong indication of the governor’s commitment toward not only developing a relationship with the tribe, but in terms of rebuilding the upstate economy,” she said.

Anthony P. Cellini, supervisor of the Town of Thompson, which includes Monticello, was in New York City yesterday for the State Association of Towns annual meeting when he heard the news. “That’s great,” Mr. Cellini said. “This is the furthest anyone’s ever gotten. I think we’ll see an explosion of growth.”

The owners of the longtime harness track, Empire Resorts, plan to put the land into federal trust for the tribe. Empire Resorts, in turn, would build and manage the casino for the Mohawks for up to seven years, with 70 percent of the net revenues going to the tribe. “While casino gaming and entertainment has expanded and prospered in Atlantic City, Connecticut and now Pennsylvania, the Catskills was left behind,” said Charles Degliomini, a spokesman for Empire Resorts. “Now, thanks to Governor Spitzer, New York State finally gets a chance to put a shovel into the ground.”

Hotel owners and state officials have looked to gambling as the salvation of the Catskills, ever since the area’s tourist economy and 500 hotels and bungalow colonies began a slow, inexorable decline in the late 1960s. Governor Pataki touched off a land rush in and around Monticello in 1999 when he said he favored Indian casinos in former resort areas. Suddenly, well-connected developers sought out tribal partners and bought large swaths of land and shuttered hotels like the Concord. But little headway was made.

Progress at the track is a personal triumph for Robert Berman, a Sullivan County resident who first conceived of building an Indian casino at the raceway in 1994. He lost his partners, the Mohawks, in 2000 after they were lured away by a major gambling company. Six years later, Mr. Berman, who is a shareholder in Empire Resorts but no longer a company executive, lured the tribal leaders back to the raceway for what may be the last off-reservation casino.

“After 12 long years, the project conceived to revitalize a dying community will finally move forward at its rightful home, Monticello Raceway,” Mr. Berman said.

It remains to be seen whether other casinos would be built in the Catskills. The State Legislature authorized three Indian casinos there after the attack on the World Trade Center damaged the state’s and New York City’s economy. At one point, the Pataki administration supported five. But only the Mohawks had obtained preliminary federal approval.

There are now four Indian casinos in New York State, including the Oneida tribe’s Turning Stone casino in Verona and the Mohawks’ casino on the Akwesasne reservation. In the first 10 months of last year, the Seneca tribe’s two upstate casinos generated about $75 million in revenues for the state, according to the Racing and Wagering Board.

But the Catskills was always seen as the gambling prize, because it is closer to New York City than either Atlantic City or the two Connecticut casinos. Analysts have said that a major Catskill casino could generate $1 billion a year and put a significant dent in Atlantic City revenues.

Rosa Lee, a leader of Casino-Free Sullivan County, said yesterday that she remained unimpressed by Governor Spitzer’s actions. She said she was more concerned about traffic congestion, increased crime and the pressure of development.

“We don’t think casinos are the answer to our economic and development problems up here,” she said.

Richard Schrader, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has filed a suit against the project, also expressed disappointment with the governor’s decision and the federal government’s environmental review, which he said was insufficient.

“We simply don’t know the likely impacts in increased traffic congestion, air quality deterioration and dangerous sprawl that a major development like this would have on the Catskills,” he said.

The Interior Department sent a letter to the Mohawks in December saying that it had approved the existing environmental review of the project. But the letter spent more time highlighting Mr. Kempthorne’s negative views of off-reservation casinos. Though they are permitted under the 1988 law, he contends that it was never meant to allow casinos so far from reservations.

It is not clear whether the secretary would have a legal justification for blocking the project, but he could at least delay a final decision.

The agreements reached over the weekend were delayed for weeks when state officials insisted on discussing the collection of cigarette taxes on the Mohawk reservation, a prickly issue for the tribe, which is regarded as a sovereign nation. The tribe has agreed to collect and remit taxes in Monticello. But on the reservation, it says the state should collect taxes from wholesalers who sell tobacco products to distributors there.

The two sides agreed to try to work out the issue.

“We are committed to entering good-faith negotiations toward a formal cigarette trade agreement,” Chief White said.


Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

PuddenGrace
June 7th, 2007, 01:46 PM
Is this the same casino the Cayuga are trying to build?

PuddenGrace
June 11th, 2007, 09:57 AM
Anyone?

submachine
January 13th, 2008, 02:35 PM
On January 4, 2008, the St. Regis Mohawk tribe received a letter from Assistant Secretary James Cason indicating that their request to place approximately 29 acres of land in Sullivan County was denied based upon regulations promulgated under IGRA relating to the need of the Tribe for additional land, the purposes for which the land would be used, and the distance of the land from the Tribe’s reservation.

Dick Kempthorne, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, rejected the applications from 2 tribes to locate casinos in Sullivan County — the St. Regis Mohawk tribe at the Monticello Raceway and the Stockbridge-Munsee tribe elsewhere in the Town of Thompson. Kempthorne indicated that the proposed locations were too far from the tribes' existing reservations to justify approval. The rejection was not unexpected, given Kempthorne's long-documented opposition to off-reservation casinos, but it still dealt a blow to casino proponents. The only possibility for approval will rest with a new administration and new Secretary of Interior in 2009, who can take up the issue again.

On January 11, 2008 The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe filed a lawsuit against the United States Department of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Interior, James E. Cason, in his official capacity as Associate Deputy Secretary of the Interior, and Carl J. Artman, in his official capacity as Associate Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs, in federal district court in New York for unlawfully rejecting the Tribe’s application under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 (IGRA) to place approximately 29 acres of land in Sullivan County in trust for the Tribe.

The Tribe alleges in its complaint that the Secretary made an unlawful decision that is not only arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion, but also has no basis in law and constitutes an abuse of his position as Secretary. In addition, the Tribe alleges in its complaint that the Secretary cannot lawfully apply new requirements to the Tribe’s long-standing application without giving fair notice of new federal regulations. The new rules failed to follow the Administrative Procedure Act on several counts, including ignoring the requirement to consult with tribes or provide a comment period.

The Tribe also maintains that the decision contradicts previous determinations made by both Kempthorne himself and a previous Secretary, including “Findings of Fact” issued by the Department of the Interior in April 2000 that the proposed project was in “the best interest of the Tribe.” Commented Hanlon, “He made this decision after Interior had received, at its own request, a letter from Governor Spitzer in February 2007 that concurred in the prior Secretarial determination that the project was in the best interest of the Tribe. In addition, the N.Y. Legislature passed a law in 2001 allowing Indian casino projects to be developed exclusively in the Catskills.”

http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/index.jsp?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20080111005406&newsLang=en

submachine
February 13th, 2008, 02:04 AM
February 12, 2008
Proposal for Catskill Resort Turns Old Rivals Into Partners, and Vice Versa

By CHARLES V. BAGLI (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/charles_v_bagli/index.html?inline=nyt-per)
Donald J. Trump (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/t/donald_j_trump/index.html?inline=nyt-per), who was once fined for waging a secret lobbying campaign against a proposed Indian casino at Monticello Raceway, said on Monday that he may join his former opponent and another developer in developing a $700 million resort with thousands of electronic slot machines at the old Concord Hotel, just a few miles from the track.
Empire Resorts, which for years had tried to build a casino at the raceway, announced on Monday that it had struck a deal with Concord Associates to build what it called “Entertainment City,” with a hotel, convention center, shops, racetrack and gambling hall. Louis R. Cappelli (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/louis_r_cappelli/index.html?inline=nyt-per), an owner of the former Concord Hotel on Kiamesha Lake, is the managing member of Concord Associates, which bought 2.5 million shares of Empire for $18.75 million in January 2007.
They said the project would provide 3,000 jobs and revive the Catskills, a once-thriving resort area known as the borscht belt.
Mr. Trump confirmed in an interview on Monday that he was talking to Mr. Cappelli about joining the venture as an equity partner. Mr. Cappelli has worked with Mr. Trump in recent years, building luxury residential towers in White Plains, New Rochelle and Stamford.
But it would be a remarkable turnabout for Mr. Trump to get into a gambling venture in Monticello, where he had worked in 2000 to block Empire (then known as Catskill Development) from building a Las Vegas-style casino at the harness track for the St. Regis Mohawk tribe.
Mr. Trump presumably brings cachet to the project that might help it attract financing and government support; he also has some expertise in building championship golf courses.
The Concord project also received initial support on Monday from several important officials, including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/sheldon_silver/index.html?inline=nyt-per); Joseph L. Bruno (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/joseph_l_bruno/index.html?inline=nyt-per), the Senate majority leader; Jim Barnicle, the mayor of Monticello; and Congressman Maurice D. Hinchey (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/h/maurice_d_hinchey/index.html?inline=nyt-per), whose district stretches from the Hudson Valley to the Finger Lakes region.
But the residents of Sullivan County have seen many a grand proposal evaporate after the fanfare died down ever since cheap air fares in the 1970s dealt a fatal blow to hundreds of hotels and bungalow colonies across Sullivan County and the Catskills.
“Here we go again,” said John Conway, the Sullivan County historian. “We’ve been through this so many times before.”
Instead of building a casino at the raceway, Empire Resorts said it would close the harness track and build a new track 2.5 miles away at the Concord, along with a 500-room hotel, restaurants and about 2,500 slot machines.
Separately, Mr. Cappelli said he would also build a 125-room hotel and spa, with a club house and 600 units of housing, on the 1,700-acre property.
In January, Dirk Kempthorne (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/k/dirk_kempthorne/index.html?inline=nyt-per), secretary of the Interior Department (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/i/interior_department/index.html?inline=nyt-org), issued a ruling rejecting the proposed Mohawk-Empire casino at the raceway, saying it was too far from the tribe’s reservation, which straddles the Canadian border. With Empire’s financial support, the tribe has challenged that decision in Federal Court.
But the Mohawk chiefs now say that Empire has betrayed them. “Empire Resorts has thrown the Mohawks under the proverbial bus,” said Lorraine M. White, a Mohawk chief. “They have destroyed a partnership and a project destined for approval in exchange for a deal with the devil. Donald Trump vowed to fight any Mohawk casino in the Catskills, and by the looks of things, he has succeeded.”
Mr. Trump and his associates were fined $250,000 in 2000 for failing to disclose to the state lobbying commission that he had financed a series of newspaper advertisements opposing casinos in the Catskills. He feared that a major gambling operation in Monticello would have undermined his casinos in Atlantic City.
“Life makes many turns,” Mr. Trump conceded in the interview. “We’re having serious but preliminary discussions right now. I think the prospects are good.”
The Mohawks contend that Empire would never pursue a competing gambling operation once it opens a racino at the Concord. The tribe said it would withdraw its pending lawsuit and all of its agreements with the National Indian Gaming Commission.
In New York, full-fledged casinos can be built only on Indian land, but the state has allowed racetrack operators to install thousands of electronic slot machines.
David P. Hanlon, chief executive of Empire, said on Monday that the company had not abandoned either the tribe or the casino project. Mr. Hanlon said that the company had invited the Mohawks to join the venture at the Concord and would continue to support the lawsuit.
Empire issued a statement on Monday saying that its agreements with the Mohawks had expired on Dec. 31, 2007, and officials said that they were not required to notify shareholders.
“We saw this as an opportunity to get into business right away, rather than waiting,” Mr. Hanlon said. “Louis has all the permits to go forward now.”
Mr. Hanlon and Mr. Cappelli blamed a former ally, Robert Berman, for creating this conflict between the tribe and Empire. They said that Mr. Berman, who first conceived of the Mohawk casino in 1996 and was once an officer at Empire, had his own plans for the raceway. “They’re being ill advised” by Mr. Berman, Mr. Cappelli said.
Ms. White said the tribe did not enlist Mr. Berman as an adviser until early December when it learned that a deal with Mr. Cappelli was in the offing.
“I am deeply disappointed in Empire’s management and board for the handling of this and other matters,” Mr. Berman said.
Mr. Cappelli and Mr. Hanlon said they expected to begin demolition of the Concord within 45 days and to begin construction by the end of July. But they must obtain approval from the state’s Racing and Wagering Board and the town planning board for a new racetrack.
Mr. Cappelli also said he would also ask the state for the same kind of economic incentives and tax breaks that it provides for other economic development projects.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/12/nyregion/12catskills.html?em&ex=1202965200&en=82f588c80f45c325&ei=5087%0A