Setback for Monticello Casino


monticelloThe Department of Interior’s rejection late last week of a controversial proposal for a megacasino in the Catskill Mountains outside New York was a big setback for the Wisconsin Indian tribe hoping to develop it. But it was good news for a racetrack owner in the area that has been quietly planning a major expansion.

Empire Resorts Inc., which owns and operates the Monticello Casino & Raceway about 90 miles from New York, is asking state legislators for help in financing a $400 million upgrade of its existing harness-racing facility.

Under the phased plan, disclosed last week in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Empire ultimately would add three hotels, two restaurants and a spa, renovate its existing gambling area and add a room to show simulcast races. The company added slots and other electronic gambling machines in 2004 but has long wanted to develop table gambling as well.

Empire’s move to capitalize on the misfortune of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans is the latest twist in the decades-long saga of Indian tribes and others trying to develop casino gambling in the Catskills, a region seeking to rebuild its faded reputation as a prime summer-getaway destination for New Yorkers. The competition has involved international intrigue, numerous Indian tribes and government agencies, and byzantine changes in alliances.

But the Catskills area has had little to show for the alliances and deals that were announced and fell apart. Meanwhile, gambling choices expanded for the New York City market in Connecticut, Atlantic City, N.J., and Pennsylvania. Most recently, Malaysia’s Genting Bhd. began construction of the first legal slots in New York City at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.

{Wall Street Journal/}


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