Legislators in Sullivan County, New York, voted unanimously last month to approve a mitigation agreement with the Seneca Indians, a crucial first step as the tribe works to build a casino in the town of Bridgeville.
The agreement calls for the tribe to pay the county $15.5 million each year during the two-year construction phase and $20 million for the four years after the hotel has been completed and gaming is available. The deal, which compensates for the impact on the community of a major resort, also makes provisions for additional revenues based on the success of the casino.
The agreement comes as the Senecas face declining second-quarter profits at their western New York casinos.
The sluggish economy has not dampened enthusiasm for the Sullivan County project, but a thumbs-up from the county is just the first hurdle for the Senecas, who would partner in the venture with casino operator Rotate Black Inc.
The plan now goes for approval to the Department of the Interior, which has not yet showed its hand on the controversial issue of off-reservation tribal casinos.
Former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne firmly opposed the concept, and declined to approve St. Regis Mohawk and Stockbridge-Munsee proposals for casinos in the county. Though current Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and his boss, President Barack Obama, have not yet expressed opposition or support when it comes to off-reservation gaming halls, Democrats at the state and national level are lining up to back the tribes.