By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO February 21, 2003 County officials returned yesterday from a Wednesday trip to Albany feeling good about the prospect of casinos locally so good, in fact, that theyve decided not to hire a lobbyist to campaign for the countys gambling interests.
Sullivan County has two deals on the table for Indian-run gaming casinos: with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe for a casino at Kutshers Sports Academy, and with the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe for a casino off Route 17s Exit 107 on Bridgeville Road, both near Monticello. The deals are for $15 million a year each.
Recently, plans have been revived for a casino at the Monticello Raceway with a tribe that has yet to be announced publicly. A few years back, the Village of Monticello negotiated a $5 million deal for themselves.
But town and county officials were afraid a tribe could come in the back door, make a deal, and negate their other deals. The three entities met and agreed to work together to make sure that did not happen.
While that was a start, there was still some fear a deal could be made with the governor and the county would be left out. To ensure that would not happen, Sullivan County Legislature Majority Leader Rodney Gaebel, District 3 Legislator (and point person on the casinos) Greg Goldstein, and County Attorney Ira Cohen traveled to Albany Wednesday to discuss these issues with representatives of the governors office. The group met with Assistant Counsel Greg Allen.
A meeting was held yesterday morning so the three could update county, town, and village officials. Representing the village were Mayor Gary Sommers and Manager Richard Sush. Representing the town was Grantswriter Arlene Glass.
Cohen reported that they met with Allen for 90 minutes, and all three felt the meeting was very positive. While they were asked not to discuss everything publicly, they were assured that the governor would not negotiate with any tribe that did not already have an agreement with the county.
Greg Allen was extremely friendly, cooperative and knowledgeable. He was willing to discuss any area, Cohen reported. We got assurance from him that the governor would not negotiate with any Indian tribe unless they have a local agreement in place. That came easily and freely. We were quite pleased. He also told us that, if anything comes up if we have any questions to feel free to contact him, and he will be available.
We did not know what to expect, Goldstein said. He was very straightforward. Sullivan County will not be left in the dust. He was very understanding.
This is not the first time we have been assured by the governors office, noted Legislature Chair Leni Binder. This was our first official meeting. It does give us a comfort level.
Some media reports have stated that the governors office will not negotiate with the Stockbridge-Munsees because they are not a New York State tribe (although a court determined they have New York roots, and the matter is being settled).
They [the state] are open to discussion, Cohen commented. The door is not closed.
It is a legal issue between the state and the federal levels, and they are not at liberty to say, Gaebel added. We do go up there to lobby for them. They came in the front door. They will be looked upon more favorably for doing that.
The group would not comment on how close the governor is to getting compacts with the tribes, but Legislature Chair Leni Binder said the Legislature was so pleased with the results of this visit that she is taking the lobbyist issue off her agenda.