Surprise Step Toward Casino in New York State

Albany - Gov. David A. Paterson is poised to sign off on a casino development project in the Catskills, opening the door to the state’s first full-fledged casino in close proximity to New York City.

The governor is close to an agreement with the Stockbridge-Munsee, a Mohican tribe based in Wisconsin that traces its roots to New York and has been pursuing a casino project in Sullivan County for several years.

The development comes as a major surprise late in Mr. Paterson’s administration, since the recent discussion about casinos has focused on tribes based in New York, and particularly the Shinnecock tribe in the Hamptons, which recently won a long battle for federal recognition.

The project would still require federal approval — never a certainty in casino development — but state and local officials said they were confident that they had already cleared most of the necessary hurdles.

As part of an agreement with the state, the tribe will settle a land claim suit in Madison County in central New York, and receive a single acre of land as part of the settlement, a person with knowledge of the arrangement said. Securing a foothold in New York is aimed at helping the tribe win federal approval to build a casino in Sullivan County, though casinos proposed outside of reservations have long been a sticking point for federal regulators.

The tribe has also been negotiating a compact with the state that would give $15 million a year to Sullivan County and give the state a percentage of the casino’s revenue, a key component of winning state and federal approval.

“We’re confident,” said Anthony P. Cellini, the supervisor of Thompson, about 90 miles northwest of New York City, where the casino would be located.

“It means jobs,” Mr. Cellini added. “We were once the Northeast’s tourism capital, and this could once again bring that back to this area.”

Mr. Cellini said state and federal officials, including the governor and tribal officials, were planning to gather in the Catskills on Monday for a ceremony.

The Paterson administration declined comment on Tuesday afternoon.

While there is already a casino in Yonkers and one being developed at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, both are technically called racinos — they are attached to horse racing tracks and feature video lottery terminals, but not table games.

The casino envisioned for Thompson would be a full-fledged casino with table games, a development that would quite likely draw business from casinos in Atlantic City and Connecticut, as well as the closest such casino in New York State: Turning Stone between Syracuse and Utica, which is run by the Oneida tribe.

NY Times


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