02/19/2011 12:04PM

Federal decision puts end to proposed Catskills casino

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New York racetrack casino operators are breathing easier after the U.S. Department of Interior officially rejected a deal between the state and a Wisconsin-based Indian tribe to build a casino in the Catskill region, approximately 90 minutes from where a slots-only facility is being built at Aqueduct.

Late last year – just weeks after closing a $385 million deal with Genting New York to build a 4,500 slots casino at Aqueduct – then-New York Gov. David Paterson reached agreement with the Wisconsin Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohicans for a full-fledged casino in the Catskills, presumably to settle land-claim issues. The deal needed federal approval from the Dept. of Interior, which must approve all gambling compacts between states and Native American tribes.

In a statement released Friday, the New York Gaming Association, a group representing racetrack casino operators in the state, applauded the Dept. of Interior’s decision to reject the deal.

“By rejecting this ill-conceived compact, the Department of Interior has allowed New York State to go back to the drawing board and put together a gaming policy that makes sense. That new policy will hopefully capitalize on existing resources like our racetrack casinos, which already put more than $1 billion per year in tax revenue toward state coffers and could help bolster our sagging economy even further if allowed to operate full-scale casinos.

“We are extremely pleased with DOI’s decision and look forward to working with Gov. Cuomo and the state Legislature to develop a gaming policy that maximizes revenue, creates jobs and keeps the racetrack casino economic engine churning.”

Added Charles Hayward, the New York Racing Association’s president and chief executive officer: “We had very serious concerns about the proposed Catskill casino and its potential impact on Genting USA’s new gaming facility being built here at Aqueduct. The rejection of this plan by the U.S. Department of Interior is very welcome news.”

Officials from Genting, whose casino at Aqueduct will be known as Resorts World, had expressed concern about the casino drawing business away from Aqueduct as well as Monticello, which it also has an interest in. At a hearing in Albany in early February, Michael Speller, president of Genting New York, recommended that the state pass legislation to allow voters to approve table games at state casinos.