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After 15 years St. Regis Mohawk Tribe Voters Approve Pursuit of $500 million
Gaming Resort in Monticello with Empire Resorts

By Denise A. Raymo, The Press-Republican, Plattsburgh, N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jan. 31, 2010--AKWESASNE -- Akwesasne Mohawks approved the Tribal Council's pursuit of a $500 million casino resort in Monticello by a vote of 538 to 371 Saturday.

There were 27 void ballots.

According to a press release, 1,036 voters turned out to consider the question, "Do you approve the Tribe pursuing off-reservation gaming in the Catskills?"

The results are the unofficial count by the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Election Board.

Tribal Council members have tried for 15 years to get such a plan authorized at the community level as well as with state and federal officials.

"The next hurdle for the tribe to clear is the so-called Kempthorne decision, made during the Bush Administration," the press release states. "The Obama Administration is currently reviewing this earlier decision that limited off-reservation gaming developments."

The idea is to have 29 acres of land taken into federal trust on behalf of the tribe so it can be developed in phases to create a $500 million gaming resort with Empire Resorts, which owns the Monticello Raceway in Sullivan County.

The plan was nearly approved in 2008, but the U.S. Secretary of the Interior declined to sign the application for the land trust, stating the Akwesasne reservation is too distant from the proposed casino.

During construction and later when the Monticello casino would be under full operation, as many as 3,000 jobs would be created with first preference promised to Akwesasne Mohawks.

Net profits estimated in a previous feasibility study stated the tribe could take in as much as $37 million during the first seven years of operation, money that would go back to the Mohawk community for services and programs.

A referendum vote asking the same question held in November was defeated 178 to 140, but the results were deemed null and void because prior public notice was not made for the required 30 days.

The Election Board will make the referendum results official after a five-day period, pending any appeals.

E-mail Denise A. Raymo at: draymo@pressrepublican.com

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Copyright (c) 2010, The Press-Republican, Plattsburgh, N.Y.

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