Casino, New York Tribe Strike Deal

Casino gambling in the Catskill Mountains of New York took a major step forward with the signing of an agreement between an Indian tribe and the world's largest casino company to manage a sprawling betting resort.

The St. Regis Mohawks, a small, northern New York tribe, agreed to let Park Place Entertainment manage its future casino just outside Monticello. The facility will cost $500 million to build and rival the floor space of some of Las Vegas' largest casinos.

The casino and 750-room resort hotel will be located on 66 acres just several miles from Monticello Raceway and 90 minutes from New York City.

"It's a wonderful day in our history," said Alma Ransom, a tribal chief with the St. Regis Mohawks.

Park Place president Thomas Gallagher said he was unfazed by legislation that will permit video lottery machines at the nearby Standardbred track, and that the casino would be more than able to compete. A new law permits up to three Indian-owned casinos in the Catskills, three Indian casinos in western New York, and VLTs at most racetracks in the state.

The St. Regis/Park Place casino bid still needs to clear several key hurdles, including federal and state approval and a bid to block the deal by a spurned development company that once had a plan with the Mohawks for a casino at Monticello Raceway.

"We're ready to break ground as soon as the tribe finalizes its compact with the state and receives the remaining government approvals," Park Place senior vice president Kim Sinatra said. "In our view, the Saint Regis Mohawk casino is on the fast track."

The deal calls for the Mohawks to get 70% of the casino earnings, and Park Place the remainder. The Mohawks and Park Place also agreed to provide $15 million annually to local governments in the area, and will turn over a portion of slot-machine revenue to the state each year.