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July 12, 2014
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Casino dreams rise from the dead, again, in Sullivan County


Four nearly four years various American Indian tribes have been blocked from opening casinos in Sullivan County because of a rule regarding off-reservation casinos. The rule said that the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs would not approve any Indian Casinos that were located more than a “commutable” distance away from the tribe’s reservation.

Senator Chuck Schumer and others have been pushing to have that rule thrown out, and on June 14, Schumer announced that his efforts had been successful. He took credit for the reversal in a press release. The move had been previously opposed by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who reportedly wanted to protect the gambling industry in his home state of Nevada.

Schumer said the casino deals in Sullivan that had been turned down in the past should be revisited. He said. “The previous Catskill casino applications deserve to be reconsidered because they demonstrated broad and deep community support, were developed in consultation with state and local officials, have revenue sharing agreements with localities and the state, and completed extensive environmental reviews.”

There is a good possibility that several of the tribes who have worked for a casino in Sullivan County in past years will renew the effort. Kimberly Vele, president of the Stockbridge Munsee Band of Mohican Indians issued at statement saying, “For more than a decade, the Stockbridge Munsee Band worked closely with state and local officials to achieve our goal of re-establishing our presence in our aboriginal territory in New York State. We negotiated agreements with the Sullivan County, and signed a compact with the State of New York. The tribe is now in the process of exploring its options regarding our plans to establish a casino resort in the Catskills.

County officials immediately applauded the development.

Jonathan Rouis, chairman of the Sullivan County Legislature, said, "I applaud the efforts of Senator Schumer as he lobbied hard for the lifting of the ban on off reservation casinos. We look forward to starting the process with our Native American partners to secure Native American gaming in the Sullivan County Catskills."

"It has been an ongoing struggle to secure gaming in Sullivan County and I am cautiously optimistic that the federal government sees that bringing Native American gaming to Sullivan County will create an economic stimulus for not only Sullivan County, but also the Hudson Valley region and New York State," said legislator Leni Binder.

"The added jobs to the community as well as the revenue from a possible casino hotel would surely add a needed economic boost to the Sullivan County Catskills. The recent interest by retailers looking to locate in Sullivan County will be enhanced by the addition of a casino resort," said legislator Alan Sorenson, who represents the district where the casinos would be located.

Sullivan County manager David Fanslau envisions this as an economic opportunity and one of the major puzzle pieces to secure fiscal vitality once again throughout the county. "The Sullivan County economy will benefit from additional tourism venues and jobs for county residents," Fanslau said.

Legislator Elwin Wood, chairman of the Community and Economic Development Committee, stated "We look forward to the renewed interest in developing a casino in Sullivan County. Such a project could bring upwards of 2,000 permanent jobs and 2,000 construction jobs to the area."

Sullivan County manager David Fanslau envisions this as an economic opportunity and one of the major puzzle pieces to secure fiscal vitality once again throughout the county. "The Sullivan County economy will benefit from additional tourism venues and jobs for county residents," Fanslau said.

Still, only five off-reservation casinos have been approved in the country since the Indian Gaming Regulating Act was passed in 1988, so the tribes and casino supporters may yet have a few hurdles to jump.

Additionally, there will undoubtedly be resistance from some groups who have opposed them in the past. Rasmey Adams, executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper called the announcement a distraction to all of the other economic development efforts going on in the region. He said further that the environmental impact of multiple casinos in the county will be harmful and that Mountainkeeper will fight the development of the casinos.