By Matt Youngfrau
LOCH SHELDRAKE May 18, 2001 Not a shred of ground has been broken yet, but approximately 700 people showed up at Sullivan County Community College on Tuesday to listen to Park Place Entertainment and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe discuss the plans for their proposed casino at Kutsher's Country Club in Monticello. The plans were revealed at a public forum held at the Paul Gerry Fieldhouse in Loch Sheldrake.
The tribe filed their application for a casino back in March with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the United States Department of the Interior. County officials had hoped to begin negotiations with Park Place last month but opted to wait until the details of the application were revealed at the forum.
Members of the tribe and officials from Park Place gave a brief overview of the project and introduced those they brought with them. Both groups gave an overview of their history and outlined what they would be able to do.
"Indian gaming has contributed significantly to the economic self-sufficiency of tribes throughout the United States and has produced new levels of prosperity for local, state, and federal jurisdictions," St. Regis Mohawk Chief Paul Thompson told the standing-room-only crowd. "I am here today not to bring you false hope and empty promises, as you have probably heard in the past 20 years. I am here today on behalf of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe to reassure you of our commitment to work diligently towards the development of a casino resort in Sullivan County. I am here today to request your continued support for the casino being developed by the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe and Park Place Entertainment."
"We need your help," Park Place Senior Vice-President Tom Borsig told the crowd. "We need you to get in touch with your elected officials. It could speed up the approval process."
The plans call for the facility to be on 66 acres of land. It would feature a 750-room hotel with 5,200 parking spots available. There would be space available to seat 2,200 people, along with a food court, a buffet, and a bar. There would also be a 2,000-seat theater. The gaming area would have 3,500 video lottery machines and 100 gaming tables.
Benefits to the local economy were also outlined. It was estimated that $1 billion would be pumped into the local economy. There would be about 4,000 new jobs created, and the average salary would be between $24,000 and $28,000.
Once the plans were revealed, written questions were taken from the audience. Many of the questions centered around the timeline of the casino. Borsig informed the crowd that no timetable could be established until all of the approvals are given. He speculated that, if approvals were granted by the end of the year, the casino would be open by the beginning of 2004.
Also announced was that Park Place would have a representative living in the area. Chuck Miller will move into Sullivan County and oversee the operation. He has 30 years of experience in casino gaming.
Right after the timetable was discussed, about half the crowd left the fieldhouse before the forum was complete. Reaction to the contingent was polite but subdued. No one in the crowd was rude or obnoxious, but no one appeared excited either. A wait-and-see attitude prevailed.
The next step is unclear. County officials had stated that, once the details of the application were revealed, they would enter into negotiations with Park Place, but that date has yet to be announced.