US rejects Indian casinos in Catskills

Washington – The federal government has turned down plans for two Indian casinos in the Catskills, saying the gambling sites aimed at drawing high rollers from New York City might leave their faraway tribes worse off.

The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe had sought to build a USD 600 million casino in Monticello in Sullivan County, about 90 miles from New York City. The Stockbridge Munsee of Wisconsin had also sought to build a casino in Sullivan County. Both were rejected in separate letters sent late Friday to tribal leaders by Department of Interior Associate Deputy Secretary James Cason.

Both applications center around the hotly disputed question of whether tribes should be allowed to establish casinos far away from their reservations. The St. Regis Mohawk tribe is located about 350 miles north of its proposed site. The Stockbridge Munsee are more than 1,000 miles away.

„The remote location of the proposed gaming facility may encourage reservation residents to leave the reservation for an extended period to take advantage of the job opportunities created,“ Cason wrote in identical language to the two tribes. „The potential departure of a significant number of reservation residents and their families could have serious and far-reaching implications for the remaining tribal community and its continuity as a community.“

The decision was quickly criticized by Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, a lawmaker who has strongly supported the casino plans.

Hinchey and the St. Regis tribe have long maintained that Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has not fairly considered the proposal. The St. Regis tribe filed a lawsuit late last year accusing Kempthorne of stalling the approval process.