Hard at Work
By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO The Catskill Casino Coalition, an organization of potential casino developers including Empire Resorts, other local businesses and unions, has gone on a media and political activist blitz.
Its members have been seen throughout the county, asking people to sign petitions supporting five casinos in the county and pushing for local municipalities to pass resolutions supporting their five casinos. Their commercials have been all over the newspapers, radio and television.
So far, their efforts have proven successful in getting the towns of Fallsburg, Liberty, Thompson and the Village of Monticello to pass resolutions supporting five casinos in the county.
However, the Town of Delaware Board passed a resolution against five casinos. And the Town of Mamakating Board did not have enough votes to even discuss the matter at its most recent meeting.
Town of Cochecton Supervisor Salvatore Indelicato said he did not support Native American gaming, because he saw no benefit to his community. The board may vote on the issue at their meeting next week, he said.
Josh Sommers, spokesman, media consultant and lobbyist for the organization, said the group was extremely enthusiastic and appreciative of the local boards who passed resolutions in favor of five casinos.
He said the group will be making a 30-minute presentation to the Sullivan County Legislature today, presumably after the legislature holds an anticipated public meeting with Greg Allen, Governor George Patakis chief Indian Affairs counsel. The meeting will begin at 11 a.m. at the Sullivan County Government Center in Monticello but will only allow a maximum of 300 people in the room.
Sommers said he hopes that the county legislators will take the local boards actions into consideration.
He said casinos will provide economic development to an area with few career opportunities, like permanent union and resort jobs, and bring millions of dollars into local businesses, he said.
Many others have opposed the casinos and expressed concerns for impacts to infrastructure, including schools, police and emergency services, roads, traffic, the environment, and an increase in addicted gamblers.
Sommers said the combination of five casinos will contribute $75 million a year in impact fees to the county, a number he believes is sufficient.
Headed to Court
By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO January 7, 2005 Casino-Free Sullivan County filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court recently to annul and void the December 2004 decision by the Town of Thompson Planning Board to grant conditional final site plan approval for a St. Regis Mohawk/Caesars Entertainment casino and hotel at the site of Kutshers Sports Academy on Anawana Lake Road in Monticello.
Rosa Lee, the media liaison for the organization, wrote a statement which said the approval was the first of four casinos which would wind up in the Town of Thompson if Governor George Patakis land claim settlements went through.
Lee said that the cumulative impact from these casinos will negatively affect the health and well-being of residents in the Town of Thompson, Sullivan County and the entire region. The enormous increase in traffic itself would cause serious air pollution and bumper-to-bumper congestion, resulting in a significant reduction in air quality.
The group opposes Patakis vision of Sullivan County as a little Las Vegas, wrote Lee. The organization will be represented by former Riverkeeper attorney David Gordon.
Lee said the town planning board did not assess the major impacts that will occur as a result of up to four casinos in the town. In addition to traffic and pollution, she mentioned the impact with schools, housing, roads and problem gamblers.
Welfare and suicides would increase, she warned. She called casinos a vacuum that will suck everything in around it.
She said the Turning Stone casino had devastated its local businesses. She added that a DVD was released recently which shows the numerous stores which have closed down due to the casino. She said that local political leaders and business people have warned that Turning Stone should serve as a lesson for other communities.
Lee has personal experience with gambling addicts. Her father was a problem gambler whose trials and devastation to her family were horrific, she said.
Town of Thompson Supervisor Anthony Cellini responded yesterday by stating that he was confident the planning board had dotted their Is and crossed their Ts.
Cellini called the suit frivolous but said town attorneys will respond.