By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO May 7, 2004 Forget about racinos; Mighty M Gaming at Monticello Raceway and the Cayuga nation are out for bigger swordfish.
The Eastern Regional office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs gave its approval for the proposed $505 million, 214,000 square foot casino, and has recommended the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs approve the project. The regional office also concurred with the raceway that a $5 million yearly impact fee to the county is sufficient.
Governor George Patakis spokesman, Todd Alhart, said The state is encouraged by the proposed findings and conclusions of the regional director of the Eastern Bureau of Indian Affairs and awaits the final decision by the assistant secretary of the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Legislature Chairman Chris Cunningham said he still expects that the operators [of Mighty M Gaming] will sit down with us and come to an agreement like the other two casinos.
Both the St. Regis Mohawks and Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans have agreed to $15 million a year impact deals. That was in addition to further considerations on roads, infrastructure and public safety, said Cunningham. He called the $5 million offer by the raceway not acceptable.
Cunningham said negotiations have not begun yet.
We have reached out through our attorneys . . . The door is wide open and we are willing to talk, he noted.
Cunningham said that consultants hired by the county for more than $85,000 will be making a presentation next week on the estimated impacts to the county from the casinos.
Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther wondered how the Raceway could have made a deal four years ago with the Village of Monticello alone for $5 million a year and is now offering that amount for the entire county.
Gunther also said she had called on Pataki to involve the county with negotiations on a compact agreement. A compact agreement with the state is necessary for the casino to move anywhere.
Gunther said she and State Senator John Bonacic should be involved to ensure the appropriate funds for Sullivan County.
Bonacic called the matter academic.
He estimated the social costs alone to the county to be closer to $15 millon. He said it was in the best interest of both of the parties to come to an agreement.
They [the raceway] dont want a monkey wrench in the process, Bonacic said.
Bonacic was confident that there would be a satisfactory agreement between the two parties.
Charlie Degliomini, vice president of corporate communications for Empire Resorts, claimed the Federal BIA had never overturned the reversal of a decision made by the regional office. In fact, he expected the approval to come in the coming weeks.
Degliomini said that those opposed to the $5 million impact fee need to do some soul searching .. . they shouldnt have a knee-jerk reaction. The community will benefit through room, property and sales tax (revenues).
The spokesman for Mighty M Gaming estimated that the casino would be bringing in revenue of more than $1 billion a year.
He also believed that a court battle involving anti-gaming groups could not interfere with the casino process. The group has filed a lawsuit against the state because of recent New York State legislation, which introduced Powerball, VLTs and several casinos (one in Niagara Falls, one in Buffalo and three in the Catskills). One district court judge has already ruled in favor of the state. The 2nd District Court of Appeals has heard the appeal, and will be issuing a ruling, said Degliomini.
While the governors office is keeping hush-hush on a future compact agreement with the proposed casino, Degliomini said his group would be amenable to a deal along the lines of the one in Niagara.
At the Niagra casino, the state gets 25 percent of the VLT revenue, the county gets 6 percent of what the state takes, and the casino keeps all revenue from the table games.
Here in Sullivan County, 1,800 Video Lottery Terminals are scheduled to open at Monticello Raceway on June 30.