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Ready For Major
Decision On Casino

Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO — September 12, 2006 — The United States Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is expected to begin soliciting comment today when the environmental assessment booklet for the St. Regis Mohawk’s application to build a casino on land held in trust by the federal government near the Monticello Raceway is released.
Lorraine White of the tribe said the environmental assessment book will be hundreds of pages long and available at the Village of Monticello Hall and the Ethelbert B. Crawford Public Library on Broadway. Village Clerk Edith Schop said she has been notified that the document will arrive in her office today.
According to White, the tribe is seeking to place 30 acres of land into trust. The land is currently situated behind the raceway, currently a vacant parking lot. She estimated that the casino – along with a convention center, entertainment venue and dining facilities – would total 600,000 square feet. The gaming floor itself would total 160,000 square feet.
Contrary to previous reports, White said there are no plans to build a hotel on or near the property. The tribe reached an agreement earlier this year with the county to pay the county $15 million a year for any impacts – $1.25 million is expected to go to the Town of Thompson, although no formal arrangement between the two sides has been reached. County officials have also said that some of that money would go to the Monticello Central School District.
The tribe has pledged to remit all applicable sales tax on retail items, from food and beverage to clothes and merchandise.
The tribe and the village reached an impact agreement for $5 million a year, which the tribe said it will stand by. Yesterday, Mayor Jim Barnicle said the contract would need to be altered due to changes since that time, including the fact that the fire department is no longer under the auspices of the village government.
In addition, the tribe is now working with Empire Resorts (owners of the raceway), as opposed to the former Catskill Development LLC.
The mayor said he is “100 percent” behind the casino.
The tribe originally proposed building a casino at the raceway ten years ago but then left it for Kutsher’s Sports Academy. It recently returned to the raceway as its preferred site.
“The village is not going to stop a casino. We will work with them,” remarked Barnicle.
He said a casino will bring jobs to the area and will benefit local businesses. If everything goes as planned, the casino could be opened after the reconstruction of Broadway, he stated.
If the BIA makes a finding of no significant environmental impact, the governor would have to decide whether to concur before any casino could be officially approved.
White said she believes the site has been reviewed extensively, going back to the original plans from nearly ten years ago to the draft environmental assessment form released over two years ago. Therefore, she doesn’t see a need for a more complicated environmental impact statement, which will likely be the demand of casino opponents.
“We’re very excited about the progress and the hurdles we have overcome this year. We look forward to completing our efforts and bringing a casino to Sullivan County,” she commented.
The public comment period will be open for 30 days. Written comments should be sent to Franklin Keel, Director of the Eastern Regional Office of the BIA, 711 Stewarts Ferry Pike, Nashville, TN 37214.

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