By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO February 15, 2002 After weeks of anticipation, the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians filed their land-to-trust application with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) on Monday to build a casino off Route 17's Exit 107 on Bridgeville Road near Monticello. The casino will be developed by Trading Cove Associates, who also helped the tribe create the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.
"This is an important step forward for the Stockbridge-Munsee and for the people of Sullivan County," stated Stockbridge-Munsee Band President Robert Chicks. "We are pleased to submit this request to the BIA with the full support of Sullivan County and the Town of Thompson. We are all united and focused on realizing a casino and hotel complex in the Town of Thompson, which will generate tremendous economic growth for the region and for the tribe."
The tribe has approximately 333 acres of land in the Town of Thompson. They plan to create 150,000 square feet of gaming space featuring 3,000 slot machines and 190 gaming tables. The casino will also feature three specialty restaurants, 10 food court outlets, a buffet, a coffee shop, a deli, five bars, and a convenience store. It will be modeled after Phase I of the Mohegan Sun, which took under a year to construct. Phase II in Bridgeville will feature additions to the existing buildings and a hotel complex. A similar project took 18 months to complete at the Mohegan Sun.
The convenience store almost delayed the deal the tribe made with Sullivan County on January 24. The seven-year agreement with the county, which will receive $15 million per year, is very similar to the one the county penned with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe for a casino at Kutsher's Sports Academy. The major difference is that the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe was insistent on having the convenience store.
Concerned about local competition, the Sullivan County Legislature was reluctant to allow the convenience store, but the agreement was finally reached. The tribe will sell cigarettes and gas at comparable prices to the local shops, although they will not charge state and federal taxes. They will also take bottle redemptions.
The tribe has promised they will work with local convenience stores and allow them to participate in their points system, allowing customers to earn points at the casino that they can redeem at the local stores.
The tribe itself is based in Wisconsin. However, they can trace their roots back to New York State, specifically in Oneida and Madison counties near Syracuse and Utica. And the tribe does have a land claim action still pending in the New York court system.
If the tribe does receive BIA approval, it still needs to reach an agreement with New York State Governor George Pataki. And there are two lawsuits currently pending, looking to declare the states new gambling legislation unconstitutional.