New York racetrack casinos lost a major potential competitor Feb. 18 after federal officials rejected a plan for a sprawling, full-blown casino just 90 miles from Manhattan.
The U.S. Department of Interior formally ended a bid for an off-reservation casino to be built in the southern Catskills resort region by the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohicans.
The Wisconsin-based tribe struck a deal late last fall in the final weeks of the outgoing administration of former New York Governor David Paterson for the casino rights in return for settling a long-standing land claims lawsuit by the tribe for what it maintains is ancestral land in central New York.
Racetrack-based casinos, which in New York can offer video lottery terminals, expressed concerns that they could not compete with the massive casino, complete with table games, that the Mohicans were proposing to build not far from the Monticello harness racetrack.
Genting New York, the developer of the long-stalled casino at Aqueduct racetrack that is expected to open this summer, has gone so far as to say it would be scaling back some plans for the new facility as a result of the competition from the proposed Catskills casino. Officials at racinos from Yonkers to Saratoga Springs openly worried about business dropping off by a Catskills casino.
The bid by the Wisconsin tribe was also opposed by New York Indian tribes, which urged the federal regulators to reject the out-of-state Indian bid for what would have been a lucrative casino.
"By rejecting this ill-conceived compact, the Department of Interior has allowed New York State to go back to the drawing board and put together a gaming policy that makes sense,'' said the New York Gaming Association, a group representing New York racetrack casinos.
The tracks say they should be allowed to operate full-scale casinos at their facilities.
"We are extremely pleased with DOI's decision and look forward to working with Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo and the state Legislature to develop a gaming policy that maximizes revenue, creates jobs and keeps the racetrack casino economic engine churning,'' the group said.