Billboard shows casinos' bad side

Billboard shows casinos' bad side

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Catskill Mountainkeeper, a newly formed anti-casino organization based in Youngsville, put up this billboard on westbound Route 17, just east of Exit 116 in Bloomingburg.Times Herald-Record/MICHELE HASKELL

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August 29, 2007

Wurtsboro — The newest casino billboard on Route 17 doesn't say "Casinos Mean Jobs!" "Jobs Now!" or any of the other slogans that pop up on glossy billboards on the way to Sullivan County.

"What's the point of living in the Catskills if the traffic's as bad as in the city?" this huge billboard says, above a picture of a traffic snarl snaking through the green Catskill mountains.

"Say no to casinos in the Catskills."

Catskill Mountainkeeper, a newly formed nonprofit based in Youngsville, put up the 12-by-48 foot billboard this week on the westbound lane near Bloomingburg at the county's gateway. This is the first time a casino foe has anted up the needed $5,000 to $10,000 to get a billboard up on Route 17.

The group is also gathering signatures to send to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, asking him to reject the St. Regis Mohawks' application for a $600 million casino at the Monticello Gaming & Raceway. The Wisconsin-based Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans want to build a casino in Bridgeville. That tribe was recently in Sullivan County, touting its planned casino on the Neversink River.

"Right now we think it is a critical period," Mountainkeeper's executive director, Ramsay Adams, said. "We also believe there are a large percentage of people who oppose another Atlantic City in Monticello."

The Mohawks and Empire Resorts, owner of the Monticello Raceway, didn't return telephone calls or e-mail messages yesterday.

The sign will be up for at least three months. For now, it will probably be the only anti-casino billboard among a chorus of the pro-casino type. "I don't see a billboard war on 17," Adams said.

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