The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe of New York state has asked the Interior Department to overturn a policy blocking their effort to build a casino in the Catskills.
The tribe, hopeful that the Obama administration will be open-minded about off-reservation casinos, has also resumed discussions with its former Catskill casino development partner, Empire Resorts Inc.
“At this stage, everything is preliminary,” tribal Chief Barbara A. Lazore told the Watertown Daily Times. “But we felt it was important to tell our history of the past 14 years, which was dismissed at the stroke of a pen by the previous administration.”
In January 2008, after more than a decade of planning, the tribe’s proposed $600 million, 766,000-square-foot casino was canceled by then-Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne. President Bush’s interior secretary ruled the St. Regis could not operate a casino at Monticello because it is too far from the tribe’s northern New York reserve.
The Mohawks tabled the project more than a year ago. But now, with new Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in office, they are calling for a change in federal policy governing fee-to-trust applications, which transfer private land into federal land, often as tribal restitution.
The planned Mohawk casino and entertainment complex was to feature approximately 125 table games, 3,500 slot machines, 24 poker tables and numerous restaurant and retail venues on a 29-acre site. It was expected to create about 3,000 permanent full-time jobs and attract 6 million visitors in its first year.
“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,” tribal Chief James W. Ransom said in a statement. “That time has come.”
The Seneca Nation of Indians, in southwestern New York, have also partnered with a gaming company, Rotate Black, to propose a casino in the Sullivan County town of Bridgeville. The Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, who once lived in upstate New York but now are based in Wisconsin, also has raised the possibility of a Catskills casino.