Senecas announce casino plans
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Almost exactly a year ago, U.S Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne denied approving 22 land-to-trust applications by Native American tribes seeking to construct casinos.
Shortly thereafter, the St. Regis Mohawks and Empire Resorts parted company, dropping plans to jointly build a casino at the Monticello Raceway.
Empire has kept up its dreams of a casino, as has the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans in an unrelated venture, but little progress has been made.
Now, with a new Interior secretary about to take office (Ken Salazar, reportedly more favorable towards off-reservation Indian casinos), the gambling buzz may be returning.
Kicking it off in the new year are the Seneca Nation of Indians and Rotate Black Gaming, Inc., proposing a Class III casino complex right across Route 17 from the Stockbridge-Munsees’ planned Bridgeville casino.
Located off Exit 107 on the south side of 17 (near the Robert Green dealership), the 63-acre site is in the hands of Rotate Black, a Michigan-based firm developing its first casinos in Nevada and India.
The Senecas already operate three casinos in western New York and envision one in the Catskills as bringing in enough revenue to enhance the existing facilities and provide $160 million to state and local governments.
In a press release issued Saturday, the Nation states that an all-suites hotel, casino and spa is a possible reality for the Monticello area “in anticipation of a change in national policy by the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama regarding gaming on newly acquired territories.”
However, the Senecas’ plans were not included in the three sites approved by the state for Indian gaming in the Catskills, and Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini indicated he has no reason to believe this proposal will get any further than a water park once proposed for the site by individuals he believes are now affiliated with the Seneca project.
“They have to go through the same process the other [Indian] nations have done,” he explained.
That will take years, and Cellini’s not sure the Senecas who have laid off employees recently and whose Buffalo casino was described to him as a “rusting hulk” have the finances and wherewithal to complete such a project.
“I’m very skeptical,” he said.
Neither Seneca Nation nor Rotate Black officials returned phone calls by press time yesterday.