NY Horsemen Oppose Plans for Indian Casino

New York horsemen oppose plans for an Indian casino in the Catskill Mountains.

New York’s largest horsemen’s group is among the latest calling on the Paterson administration to halt a looming agreement with a Wisconsin Indian tribe to build a casino in the Catskill Mountains.

The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which represents horsemen at New York Racing Association tracks, called on Gov. David Paterson Nov. 20 to scrub plans for an announcement as early as the week of Nov. 22 with the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans that would settle a longstanding land claim lawsuit in return for rights to a casino in the Catskills—just 100 miles away from the planned Aqueduct video lottery terminal casino.

New York THA president Richard Violette Jr., in a letter to the governor, sharply criticized the plans for a casino just weeks after the “ink has barely dried” on a new deal for the Aqueduct casino with Genting New York, a Malaysian company. The Genting-run casino, coming after on-again, off-again plans for an Aqueduct VLT facility since 2001, is scheduled to see its first phase open next year.

But Genting officials have warned it could be difficult for the project to make money—for Genting, New York State, and the various stakeholders in the industry—if Paterson strikes a deal with the Wisconsin tribe for the casino in the Catskills. Unlike the Aqueduct facility, which would have only VLT machines, the Catskills facility would be a full-blown casino.

Violette, in a letter to Paterson, said the New York THA is expressing its “frustration and disbelief” that the state is close to announcing the Stockbridge-Munsee deal, possibly as early as Nov. 22.

“Genting has the wherewithal to make a dramatic improvement to the landscape of Thoroughbred horse racing in New York State, allowing the New York Racing Association to make capital improvement upgrades to its facilities at Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course, while also providing much-needed financial aid to education statewide,” Violette wrote in his letter.

He called on Paterson to reconsider the Catskills casino plan, which surprised all parties when officials said they were finalizing an agreement with the Wisconsin tribe that has had a land-claim lawsuit against New York going back to the 1980s. The tentative deal has been opposed by New York-based Indian tribes and racetracks, such as at Yonkers Raceway and Monticello Raceway, which would face serious competition from a sprawling, full-service casino in the Catskills.