New York State reached an agreement with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, ending all hopes of a casino coming to Essex County or any of the other seven counties in a regional exclusivity compact.
Essex County has left the table.
Under an agreement reached May 21 between the State of New York and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, the county, along with seven others, will not be eligible to house one of three new gaming casinos proposed earlier this year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
With the agreement, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe will pay $30 million in payments owed to the state along with 25 percent of future gaming revenues.
In return, the tribe will continue to have exclusive gaming rights in an eight county zone that includes Essex, Clinton, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence and Warren.
The agreement also initiates discussions between the State, the Tribe, and local governments to resolve unrelated land claim disputes. The two sides have been in disputes over gaming issues for the past three years.
“It’s not a huge disappointment here,” Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava, who pushed the discussion about gaming in Essex County, said. “We knew that this was going to be a long shot but hey, you had to try it.”
Scozzafava said that while the deal ends the hopes of a county gaming facility, it is good news for the state as a whole.
“I’m glad that the Governor reached an accord with the St. Regis Tribe to get revenue that the state can use, which in the end could help everyone,” Scozzafava said. “He has done something that has not been done in a while by going in and bringing closure to this situation.”
Still, Scozzafava said that there are other options that could present themselves.
“I still want to pursue a Riverboat-type operation on Lake Champlain,” he said. “It would be a huge draw for both New York and Vermont and any town that has a lake shore port area. I know that there are still going to be a lot of hurdles with that as well, since you are dealing with federal waters and two states.”
For now, the closest possibility for a gaming facility in the region could be in the town of Putnam, a Washington County town not under the agreement that was reached. Saratoga County, which currently is home to the Racino in Saratoga, would be the next regional site.
“That would be the most logical place because I do not think they can live on just slot games alone,” Scozzafava said. “This would allow them the chance to expand what they offer.”
Officials who brokered the deal spoke about it after the signing.
“By working together and finding common ground, the State and Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe have reached a fair and reasonable agreement that will grant the Tribe exclusive gaming rights in the North Country, and provide the state and local governments with their share of revenues from the casino,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I commend the collaborative spirit in which all parties came together to forge this agreement.”
“We’ve waited many years for a Governor who was willing to sit down with all the parties to the land claim to come to a negotiated settlement,” Chief Ron LaFrance, Jr. of Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, added. “Gov. Cuomo has accomplished much in the short time we’ve been meeting directly with him. He has given us assurances that our outstanding issues will be dealt with fairly.”
Franklin and St. Lawrence counties would continue to receive revenue sharing from the deal, receiving $3.75 million each from the initial $30 million payment and 25 percent of the future revenue payments.