11/22/2010 4:52PM

Catskill casino deal creates a stir among racing interests


New York has reached an agreement to allow a Wisconsin Native American tribe to open a full-blown casino, in the Catskills Mountains approximately 100 miles north of New York City and several miles from an existing racetrack-casino at Monticello Raceway.

The deal with the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation settles a land dispute with the state dating to the 1980s and was announced by Gov. David Paterson on Monday. Under a complex land-swap deal, the tribe will be allowed to operate a casino offering slot machines and table games on 330 acres in Sullivan County. Casinos at state racetracks are limited to slots.

Federal laws govern tribal casinos, and the deal will need the approval of the Department of the Interior.

The state’s harness, Thoroughbred, and casino industries oppose the deal, citing the impact a new casino would have on existing operations at eight racetracks with casinos and a planned casino at Aqueduct in Queens. The new casino would be near Monticello Raceway, the harness track and casino that is majority-owned by Genting New York, the Malaysian company that reached a deal earlier this year to operate the Aqueduct casino.

Under its Aqueduct deal, Genting New York paid the state a $380 million licensing fee and has promised a $1.3 billion investment in the project, including parking garages, hotels, and retail spaces.

Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Genting, said that the new casino would be “devastating to the state’s taxpayer gaming industry, which will now be forced to compete on a dramatically uneven playing field.”

Genting is also tied to Foxwoods Resort and Casino in eastern Connecticut, providing start-up financing in the 1990s that entitles Genting to 10 percent of Foxwoods’ gambling revenue through 2015.

New York’s horsemen are expected to receive some $30 million a year in subsidies from the Aqueduct casino, with $35 million going to the New York Racing Association for operations. The Aqueduct casino is expected to open next spring.