By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO February 7, 2003 They were the first to bring a tribe to the area and propose an Indian-run gaming casino. Three tribes and two other proposed casinos later, the Monticello Raceway may now end up with the first casino to open in the area.
In the mid-1990s, Catskill Development sought out Indian partners to create a casino at the racetrack, which it owns. The partners included the Oneidas, the St. Regis Mohawks and the Cayugas. While partnered with the Mohawks, the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) granted approval to the track. But before ground was broken, the Mohawks backed out to make a deal with Park Place Entertainment to create a casino at Kutshers Sports Academy.
This left the track without a partner but with federal approval, which was not tribe-specific. The proposed casino would be on 30 acres and have 600,000 square feet of floor area. It would feature 4,200 casino games and a 1,500-seat bingo parlor.
The Village of Monticello approved the project and worked out a deal for $5 million a year to mitigate the impacts.
Since that time, the county has made separate deals with the other two Indian tribes for $15 million apiece.
Now, it appears the track is back in the race. Catskill Development attorney Joel Sachs appeared before a special Village Planning Board meeting Tuesday morning to present them with an updated full environmental assessment form. Sachs said Catskill has reached an agreement with a new tribe and the project will move forward, but he declined to name the tribe, saying only that it was federally approved and recognized by New York State.
Sachs submitted the large document for the planning board to review. He also requested copies be sent to any and all interested parties. Sachs suggested a comment period of 30 days, asking that it be brought up at the March 25 meeting.
The board said they would consider it but wanted to keep things loose. They said it would be on the agenda but that would not be firm until they see what kind of response they get.
Town of Thompson and county officials have been vocal on the subject of the $5 million deal the village made. They have stated clearly that they would not allow a casino in unless the tribe pays $15 million a year like the Mohawks and the Stockbridge-Munsees (for a casino on Bridgeville Road).
Sullivan County District 3 Legislator Greg Goldstein called a meeting late Wednesday to discuss the matter with town and village officials. All involved agreed to talk and all stated they will try to work out a deal everyone is happy with. To that end, the county will be the lead negotiator, and there will be no deal for less than $15 million.