Monticello casino one step closer

Jun 27, 2006 5:49 AM

The St. Regis Mohawks and Sullivan County, New York have come to an agreement that brings the proposed casino at Monticello Raceway a step closer to reality.

In a 5-4 vote, the Sullivan County Legislature approved a new agreement that calls for the tribe to pay the county $15 million annually to mitigate the potential impacts of the casino.

The tribe has proposed a $600 million casino featuring 3,500 slot machines and 125 table games, to be developed by Empire Resorts Inc., reported.

Mohawk tribal chief Barbara Lazore was quoted as saying, "The opportunity to bring a Native American Class III gaming operation to Monticello Raceway will mean positive economic development for the members of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and the people of Sullivan County."

The tribe is finalizing an environmental assessment at the request of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. If the BIA issues a "finding of no significant impact," the casino proposal will then go to Governor George Pataki for his signature.


Abramoff report

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee released its report last week on the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. The 373-page report outlined the various fraud schemes of Abramoff and his associates, who bilked Indian gaming tribes out of more than $66 million.

One of the more curious items that has come to light is the funneling of more than a million dollars from the Mississippi Choctaw to Christian Coalition founder and gambling opponent Ralph Reed. Abramoff used Grover Norquist as a middleman, channeling money through Norquist’s Americans for Tax Relief and giving him a cut of $50,000.

Americans for Tax Relief spokesman John Kartch told the Associated Press, "As the Choctaws have testified in open hearings before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, they have been regular, general contributors to ATR due to our commonality of policy goals." But a financial planner for the Choctaw told the Senate committee the contributions were never meant to support the organization’s general tax-relief efforts.

The Choctaws had enlisted the aid of Abramoff in a campaign to curb competition””namely, the Tigua Tribe of Texas. After the Tigua’s Speaking Rock casino was successfully shut down, Abramoff asked the tribe to hire him as their lobbyist (for $4.2 million) to get it reopened. To date, it remains closed.

Abramoff has pleaded guilty to mail fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion.


Sites OK for casino

Last week the Mississippi Gaming Commission ruled that the lands where Isle of Capri Casinos and Foxwoods Development Co. have proposed a casino-resort development are indeed legal gambling sites, the Sun Herald reported.

The 16-acre site in Biloxi, Mississippi could be the future home of a $400 million casino-resort, as part of a 266 acre, billion-dollar development. Isle of Capri president Tim Hinkley said his company plans to have the resort completed by December 2008.

The casino could bring in tax revenues of $13.5 million annually, with an additional $6.6 million going to Harrison County.



The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has announced that it will hold hearings in August on applications for racetrack gaming licenses. If all goes well, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs could have a license to operate slot machines by September, and could have a temporary 1,000-slot casino up and running by year’s end. The tribe has already shelled out more than $300 million to purchase and re-vamp Pocono Downs.

Meanwhile, local racetracks including Pocono Downs are pushing for a state and local tax cap of 55% from the Department of Revenue. Disagreement over the interpretation of current legislation could put a snag in everyone’s plans.