State, Tribe Sign Off on Catskill Mountains Casino

The state of New York and an Indian tribe signed a memorandum of understanding May 12 for a major casino in the Catskill Mountains resort area.

The sprawling casino at an old resort near Monticello could be open by the end of the year, according to St. Regis Mohawk Indian officials, though most observers see that as an ambitious timetable given the hurdles that remain.

Monticello, located northwest of New York City, is home to Monticello Raceway, which has been approved for video lottery terminals.

The deal, signed by leaders of the ruling Mohawk government council and Gov. George Pataki, still needs backing by the Mohawk membership, the state legislature, and the federal government. The pact also includes authority to offer slot machines at the tribe's existing casino in northern New York, a facility that has been operating without federal approval.

In return for the casino, the tribe has agreed to end its longstanding land-claims settlement against the state, a deal that will see the state, a state authority, and federal government pay the tribe $100 million. It will also voluntarily raise the price of cigarettes and gasoline at some of its reservation stores so non-Indian retailers can compete with the tax-free sales.

The Mohawk casino in the Catskills would be just the first of three major gambling facilities planned for the region under the 2001 law that also provided for up to three casinos in western New York.