April 7, 2009, Times Herald Record: Sullivan County casino efforts rebooting, Empire meeting with Mohawks; Senecas in game

Sullivan County casino efforts rebooting
Empire meeting with Mohawks; Senecas in game

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BRIDGEVILLE — A longtime player in Sullivan County's casino quest is positioning itself to get back into the game, while a newcomer came to the county on Tuesday to tout its $1 billion casino project.

The St. Regis Mohawks, who in 2007 came the closest to landing a casino at Monticello Gaming & Raceway, only to have their hopes dashed early in 2008, appear poised to reboot efforts for a full-service casino in Monticello.

The tribe issued a news release Tuesday, indicating they are meeting with their former partner Empire Resorts and urging the feds to reconsider policies on off-reservation casinos. Former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne refused to take 29 acres into trust for the casino, leading to a breakup between the tribe and Empire.

"We made it clear last year that we would patiently wait for a new administration to arrive in Washington and one that would hopefully revisit the injustices that were done to our tribe," Chief James Ransom said in a release. "That time has come."

Tribal leaders recently traveled to Washington to meet with Laura Daniel Davis, associate deputy secretary of the Interior, and presented her with the letter requesting Kempthorne's policy be rescinded.

They have not yet consummated a deal with Empire.

"At this stage, everything is preliminary," Chief Barbara Lazore said.

Meanwhile, the Seneca Nation of Indians met with town of Thompson and county officials on Tuesday, and have tentatively agreed to give $15 million annually to the county in return for local support for a proposed casino in Bridgeville.

A draft agreement has been drawn up whereby the Senecas would kick in that amount, which is identical to what other tribes, including the Mohawks, have agreed to pay. They would also pay an estimate of sales and hotel occupancy tax. Tribal leaders initially balked at such a payment.

"I am happy to see that they seem willing to come to terms when in the beginning they refused," Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini said on Tuesday.

Seneca officials and their partner, Rotate Black Gaming, planned a presentation at Tuesday's Town Board meeting.

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