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Raceway's Luck
Fares Poorly Again

By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO — August 6, 2004 – Governor George Pataki has told the Cayuga Nation that he will see them in court.
Talks between the state and the tribe collapsed this week, leaving the Native American nation’s land claims and casino hopes up to the Court of Appeals – for now.
The tribe has been working with Empire Resorts, which owns Mighty M Gaming at Monticello Raceway, on a casino deal next to the track.
Pataki’s spokesman, Todd Alhart, said, “Talks have ended. It is the state’s intention to see the case through to its conclusion in the courts. The talks ended after the Cayuga Nation rejected the state’s proposal for a comprehensive settlement agreement that would have included all of the parties, including the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma.”
In June, the governor’s office had publicly praised a Memorandum of Understanding in which the state preliminarily agreed to pay the Cayuga Nation of New York $247,911, or $999.42 in 14 equal annual installments beginning in 2007, and then “move forward with plans for the first of three casinos in the Catskills,” said Pataki at the time.
The tribe was apparently not satisfied with the number. According to Alhart, the tribe had appealed a lower court’s ruling in 2000 in which the state would pay them $249 million to settle their land claims. Both the state and the tribe appealed that ruling. The state wanted to pay less, and the Cayugas wanted more. The Cayugas were asking for $1.7 billion as well as thousands of acres of land in the State of New York – much of which are occupied by non-Native Americans.
The Memorandum of Understanding also would have allowed the Cayugas to purchase up to 10,000 acres of land from voluntary sellers in the state to be turned into sovereign land.
Counties in which property would be removed from the tax rolls for the Cayugas would be paid $3 million each by the state and tribe.
A compact agreement on a casino deal was also supposed to be negotiated and agreed upon.
But that’s all moot now.
The Cayuga Nation did not return phone calls for comment. Empire Resorts spokesman Charles Degliomini responded to questions with a simple, “No response.” Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Chris Cunningham did not return calls for comment, as well.
Village of Monticello Mayor James Barnicle, a supporter of Native American casinos, said, “I hope it is very political. . . . We’re this close. I hope it doesn’t fall apart.”
The future of the Cayugas’ land claims and their casino in Sullivan County will now be decided upon by the U.S. Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit in Manhattan.

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