Monticello Raceway in New York's Catskill mountains resort region would become the home of a $500-million, Las Vegas-style casino under a deal announced by Gov. George Pataki and the Cayuga Indian tribe.
The financially struggling racetrack, which would remain open, is already scheduled to unveil a 1,800-unit video lottery terminal parlor June 30. The Cayugas have been working on the casino development with the track's owners, Empire Resorts, and recently received an initial go-ahead from the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs for a land transfer of 30 acres.
The memorandum of understanding signed by Pataki and tribal leaders still requires a separate compact that will be negotiated over the coming weeks, as well as state legislative and federal approval.
The 600,000-square-foot casino would be located only 90 minutes from Manhattan, and is being viewed as attracting bettors who'd otherwise head to Atlantic City or two Indian-owned casinos in Connecticut. It also could represent another new form of competition for Aqueduct and Belmont Park.
The agreement includes a settlement of the tribe's longstanding land claims for 64,000 acres of ancestral land in central New York. The state has agreed to pay the tribe's 500 members $248 million. That was the amount a federal judge ruled in 2000 that the state owed for illegally taking the land more than 200 years ago.
Two other casinos in the Catskills have been authorized, but deals with other Indian tribes have yet to be finalized by the Pataki administration.
"The agreement would allow us to move forward with plans to establish the first of three new casinos in the Catskills, which would create thousands of new jobs and provide a tremendous boost to the region's economy," Pataki said in a written statement.