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Mohawks, Empire Resorts again part ways on casino

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — July 13, 2010 — Due to unspecified “impasses on certain key terms,” the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Tribal Council decided last week to abandon exclusive discussions with Empire Resorts to construct a casino at Monticello Raceway.
On Thursday, both the tribe and Empire posted press releases saying negotiations had ended, at least for now.
“Discussions with Empire Resorts to reach acceptable terms of a purchase agreement for the land, which is necessary to move any land-into-trust application forward, have not been successful,” said Tribal Chief Mark Garrow.
“While it is unfortunate that the tribe has indicated its intention to explore other Catskill locations where it would have no site-specific approvals, Empire Resorts respects the Council’s position, and we wish them every success,” said Empire CEO Joseph D’Amato in Empire’s press release.
The tribe’s public information director, David Staddon, said no other sites have yet been publicly identified or approached in the Catskills.
The Mohawks have had an on-again, off-again relationship with Empire Resorts for years. However, the Monticello Raceway location remains farthest along in the necessary federal and state government processes to make it sovereign tribal land and thus host an Indian-run casino.
The current gambling operation at Monticello is overseen by the NYS Lottery and is not a full-fledged casino. Thus, D’Amato said Empire, too, will be looking at its options.
“Empire Resorts will continue to explore every growth opportunity, including the expansion of our existing facility,” he explained. “In terms of tribal gaming, our Monticello Casino and Raceway site has unparalleled infrastructure, approvals and access that will make it a prime location for any future gaming in the Catskills should the St. Regis Mohawks, or any other tribe, wish to pursue off-reservation gaming in Sullivan County.”

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