By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Relaunching efforts to site Native American-owned casinos in and around Monticello, federal officials announced on Tuesday that the U.S. Dept. of the Interior (DOI) has rescinded its ban on off-reservation gaming.
“[This] announcement cracks open a previously locked door and presents a renewed opportunity to pursue a Catskills casino,” Senator Chuck Schumer stated. “Though barriers still remain, this groundbreaking action by DOI removes what was an insurmountable hurdle.”
Schumer has been at the forefront of the campaign to undo the “commutability rule,” whereby the DOI rejected nearly two dozen applications for Indian-run casinos because they were too far from the tribes’ actual reservations.
The St. Regis Mohawks and the Stockbridge-Munsees’ plans in the Monticello area were partly foiled because of that prohibition, even though the Stockbridge-Munsees could prove their ancestors had dwelled in the region hundreds of years ago.
Not surprisingly, the Stockbridge-Munsees have already announced plans to re-explore their Bridgeville casino initiative.
“The tribe is now in the process of exploring its options regarding our plans to establish a casino resort in the Catskills,” Tribal President Kimberly Vele confirmed on Wednesday.
Even though the quest for a casino has thus far proven elusive, local officials seemed enthused, as well.
“It has been an ongoing struggle to secure gaming in Sullivan County,” acknowledged Legislator Leni Binder, “and I am cautiously optimistic that the federal government sees that bringing Native American gaming to Sullivan County will create an economic stimulus for not only Sullivan County, but also the Hudson Valley region and New York State.”
“Such a project could bring upwards of 2,000 permanent jobs and 2,000 construction jobs to the area,” added Legislature Vice Chairman Elwin Wood. “The one thing that Sullivan County needs is a spark that will ignite economic development in Sullivan County. The placing of a first-class gaming facility will bring additional stimulus to the projects that we as a Legislature have been working to develop through our Economic Development Corporation.”
“We look forward to starting the process with our Native American partners to secure Native American gaming in the Sullivan County Catskills,” Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis affirmed.
What this bodes for the former Concord Hotel in Kiamesha Lake remains uncertain. Louis Cappelli, who owns the hotel site itself and is aligned with Mohegan Sun, has expressed interest in working with a tribe, even while he pursues a racing license to open the harness racetrack that would be needed for a non-Indian racino.
But Empire Resorts, owner of the Monticello Casino and Raceway and a partner with Entertainment Properties Trust to develop the 1,500 acres around the Concord that Cappelli no longer owns, isn’t yet talking.