By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO October 23, 2001 It appears that the possibility of an Indian casino in Sullivan County may be one step closer to reality.
Or is it?
That depends on whos doing the talking.
"There is no deal," New York State Senator John Bonacic stated during the Sullivan County Conservative Party's annual dinner Friday night. "Negotiations have been going on all day. As of 2 p.m. [Friday], there was no bill yet."
"The governor and [New York Senate Majority Leader Joseph] Bruno agreed to allow Sullivan County to be in the deal," New York State Assemblyman Jake Gunther said from his Monticello office Friday afternoon. (Gunther originally made the announcement at a fund-raiser for County Treasurer candidate Ron Gozza Thursday night.) "This is an omnibus racing and wagering package. It is a no-brainer."
Because of the World Trade Center disaster on September 11, it is estimated that, in the next 18 months, New York State will lose between 8 and 12 billion dollars in tourism revenue. In an attempt to bolster the economy, state lawmakers have put together a three-part gambling package.
The first part of the bill addresses Indian casino gaming. The bill would give approval for six Indian casinos: three in the Buffalo/Niagara Falls area, two in Sullivan County, and one in the Catskill region. No specific projects were named but, more than likely, the two projects to get the approval in the county would be the proposed St. Regis-Mohawk/Park Place casino at Kutshers Country Club and the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe project on Thompsonville Road.
The second part of the bill is for Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) to be put in at four harness racing tracks throughout the state. VLTs are very similar to slot machines. It is estimated that they could bring in $8,000-$10,000 of revenue a night. None of the four tracks have been named, but Gunther is expected to push for the VLTs to be placed at Monticello Raceway.
The last part of the bill would bring Powerball Lottery into New York State. Powerball is a lottery that is held in conjunction with several states. It has been immensely popular and profitable.
The bill is expected to be discussed in Albany on Monday. If it passes and the governor signs it, the only hurdle left for the Park Place casino at Kutshers would be approval from the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. Once that approval is given, construction on the casino is expected to take about two years.