By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO November 16, 2001 The latest step in the now-rapidly-moving gambling approval process took place yesterday as Park Place Entertainment and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe signed a formal casino development and management agreement at a ceremony held at Kutsher's Country Club in Monticello, where the new casino is planned to be built.
This is a good day in our history. It is a great honor for our council to be here, said St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council Chief Alma Ransom. During this process, we have made many new friends. You are healthy and wealthy if you have friends.
Today is a major milestone, added Park Place CEO Tom Gallagher. It is a turning point that will confirm there is no more doubt that we will go through with the project. We are a partner willing to commit to the project to see it become a reality.
This is a sign of things to come. We will make the Catskills a tourist destination again. We will bring back its rich history. We will see the rejuvenation of this area, said NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a part-time county resident.
The casino and resort will be built on a 66-acre site, but the tribe also has an option for an additional 1,350 acres of adjacent property.
The $500 million project will feature a 750-room hotel, 130,000 square feet of gaming space, 15,000 square feet of meeting areas, eight restaurants, a spa and a parking garage.
Park Place, the largest casino company in the world, will manage the casino for seven years, after which both Park Place and the St. Regis Mohawks will determine whether or not to renew their management agreement.
The tribe stands to receive 70 percent of the profits, or at least $9 million a year, from the casino, and Park Place will get the remaining 30 percent. Park Place, while not allowed to have an interest in a non-Mohawk casino within 50 miles of the Monticello one, will get exclusive development rights for any new St. Regis Mohawk casino in New York State.
Although the last few weeks have seen a flurry of activity, major progress on the casino issue began to take place at the end of March, when the tribe filed an application to take Kutsher's into trust and turn it into an Indian gaming casino and resort.
During the summer, the tribe and Sullivan County reached an agreement. The county, the Town of Thompson, and other affected muncipalities will receive $15 million a year once the casino begins operations. That money will be in addition to whatever revenue is received once the governor makes a deal with a tribe.
After the events of September 11, New York State legislators felt they needed to boost their revenue stream. On Halloween, the governor signed legislation that would allow at least two casinos in Sullivan County. Casino officials expect that, within a few weeks, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs will approve the project.
Once that is complete, only a few hurdles remain. The governor would have to work out a deal with the St. Regis Mohawks, the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. would have to give its approval, and the National Indian Gaming Commission would need to approve the management pact between Park Place and the tribe.
Park Place expects to break ground on the casino sometime in 2002 and open it in 2004.