Casino Decision Near, Say Officials
By John Emerson
MONTICELLO April 4, 2000 -- Catskill Development officials were busy over the weekend trying to verify information that the Bureau of Indian Affairs has given a positive recommendation to a proposed Indian casino at Monticello Raceway and passed it along for the final federal approval.
The source of the information was none other than Congressman Maurice Hinchey. Hinchey, who was in Sullivan County Saturday at a rally for I-86, told several people that he got the news during a telephone conversation with a BIA official late last week.
I know that the Congressman was told that the application for the trust was forwarded to an assistant secretary for final approval, Hinchey aide Wendy Darwell said yesterday. Beyond that, I dont have any more information.
County officials were taking the news with a grain of salt, cautious after many rumors relating to the casino have proved to be untrue. Legislature Chairman Rusty Pomeroy said he too had heard that the final federal approval for the trust was imminent, but he had not been able to confirm the information further.
Congressman Hinchey told me that it had been sent for a signature, at the rally Saturday, said Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini. He heard about it Thursday night from somebody at the BIA.
In a story that appeared Saturday in the Watertown Daily Times, Rowena General, a spokesperson for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, stated that the approval would come within the next few days and be forwarded to Governor George Pataki. Pataki must approve the deal before it can become a reality, a situation that is very much up in the air.
By noon yesterday, General said that the news had not yet been confirmed.
We havent received any official confirmation that it has been approved, she said. When we receive that confirmation, it will be announced as soon as possible.
The application to place 30 acres in a federal land trust for the tribe was originally filed in 1996. The land must be held in a federal trust to allow a gaming casino to be built because it is not part of the St. Regis Mohawk tribal lands.
Even if the land is placed in trust for the tribes benefit, the casino still faces a federal hurdle that must be overcome before construction can begin. The National Indian Gaming Commission must approve the management agreement between Catskill Development and the tribe before the casino can become a reality.