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Feds Reject New York Tribal Casino

23 February 2011 by admin

Tribal Council-mohican nationThe U.S. federal government has rejected a proposal for a tribal casino in the Catskills of New York. The U.S. Department of Interior turned down the proposal, which will lead to a new fight for tribal land and more tension between the government and tribes.

The Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohicans reached a deal with the state of New York to erect a $560 million Las Vegas-style casino near Monticello. In exchange for being granted the casino, the tribe dropped its claim to land in upstate Madison County. That land encompassed 23,000 acres and was a major concession for the tribe. After losing the casino deal, a fight for that land will resume. The casino project in exchange for relinquishing claim to the land was approved by former governor David Paterson, who was voted out of office in November. The Interior Department said they aren’t sure that the agreement complies with federal law.

The Stockbridge-Munsee Indians, as you can imagine, are not pleased with the Interior Department’s decision. Kimberly Vele, president of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohicans, said that the Interior Department’s “rationale is weak.” She also said that she was disappointed in the government pulling “an 11th-hour about-face.”

The Stockbridge-Munsees aren’t the only tribe being rubbed the wrong way by the government. Two different tribes – the Seneca Nation of Indians and the St. Regis Mohawks – have stopped making payments to the state as part of their revenue-sharing agreement. In order to be allowed a casino, the tribes were required to share a percentage of their revenue with the state of New York. However, both tribes have terminated those payments due to what they deem a breach of contract by the state.

In both cases, the dispute came down to exclusivity agreements. New York had a deal with the Seneca Nation that gave them exclusive rights to operate casinos in the state. However, when the state “authorized casino-like operations in Hamburg, Batavia and Finger Lakes,” the Seneca Nation considered the contract breached and thus, null and void. They stopped making payments to the state, though since then they have offered to resume payments and even reimburse the state for missed payments if the state meets certain demands. Those demands include using a portion of the revenue to fund the Seneca Allegany Casino, located in Salamanca.

The St. Regis Mohawks were given exclusive rights to slot machines in a seven-county area as part of their gaming compact with the state. When the state allowed a bingo hall in Altona to carry slots, the Mohawks termiend the revenue sharing with the state. All tribes in the state are also angered by Governor Cuomo’s demands that Indian retailers pay taxes on cigarettes that they sell on their reservations to non-Indians. So basically, every tribe is mad at the state for one reason or another, and much of it relates to gambling.

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