The decision by the Interior Department to suddenly reverse its standing regulations, instituted by the Bush Administration in 2008, to prohibit Indian tribes from operating casinos outside of "commuting distance" of their reservations, still leaves obstacles in place to tribes wishing to do so.
The change...does not guarantee that the casinos will be approved; the department will still take into account the views of local residents and elected officials, Mr. Echo Hawk said.Already however, talk of a Catskills casino operated by the Wisconsin-based Stockbridge Munsee tribe, approved by former Governor Paterson in the waning days of his administration and subsequently rejected by the feds, has already been revived.
Under federal law, a tribe wanting to build a casino on nonreservation land must first have the parcel transferred to the Interior Department, into a trust. The tribe must also obtain a federal determination that the planned casino would be in the best interests of the tribe, and not detrimental to the surrounding community. [NY Times]
US Senator Charles Schumer, who pushed for the decision reversal and the Stockbridge Munsee casino proposal, plans to keep the heat on.Also back in the picture these days in that part of the state is Louis Cappelli and his grand plan to build a racetrack and racino at the old Concord site. The plan had seemed dead as Cappelli was unable to get the financing during the abyss of the financial crisis.
“I will be meeting with the Interior Department and obviously they will probably have to lay out guidelines and other things to see where they are headed and will be working hard to see that the Catskills are treated favorably in that regard,” he said. [Mid-Hudson News]
Now he's back, but, according to this piece by James Odato in the Times Union, he's competing for an 8th and, at this time, final available harness license with Thomas Wilmot, a developer seeking to construct a track and VLT parlor in Syracuse.
Cappelli received a favorable letter last month from Racing & Wagering Board Chairman John Sabini which indicates that his project is on the path to getting licensed. The document is helpful as Cappelli seeks financing.As you may recall, Cappelli - with some help no doubt from some influential lobbyists - managed to obtain an unprecedented 75% retention rate of VLT revenues (based on certain benchmarks of spending and employment). That's more than twice the rate that most of the other racinos in the state get. Now, he additionally wants a new 8% marketing allowance.
"I have a comfort letter," Cappelli said, adding that he is busy resolving several mechanics liens that his opponents point out to reporters as an example of his alleged financial instability. They also express outrage that he has attempted to improve his potential VLT deal with the state by seeking to retain even more VLT revenue to help market the Catskills. [Times Union]
Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D-Westchester), chairman of the Racing and Wagering Committee, doesn’t think that will be approved.Empire, which operates Monticello, is threatening to sue Cappelli over the Concord project, which would land a competing harness track just a few miles away.
“The Cappelli group is looking for an eight percent marketing allowance because when they were partnered with Empire, they were going to use Empire’s marketing allowance, and now they are two separate entities." [Mid-Hudson News]
"Is there anyone who thinks it makes sense to put another racetrack within three miles of an existing racetrack?" asked Empire spokesman Joseph DePlasco.Of course, that concept is no stupider now than it was when Empire was a partner with Cappelli in the project, which originally envisioned "moving" the track to the Concord. With this and the Stockbridge-Munsee project, Monticello is now facing existential threats on two fronts which both seemed dead not long ago.
- How about a shout-out to the State Senator from our favorite upstate city. Senator Roy McDonald became the second Republican in the chamber to declare his support for gay marriage.
"Now, you might not like that. You might think me very cynical about that. Well f--- it; I don’t care what you think."Well, right on, Senator McDonald, and in many respects there. His declaration puts the measure a single vote away from passage in the Senate which, with the Assembly and Governor Cuomo on board, would make it the law of the state.
"I’m tired of Republican-Democrat politics. I’m tired of blowhard radio people, blowhard television people, blowhard newspapers. They can take the job and shove it," he said. "I come from a blue collar background, and I am trying to do the right thing. And that’s where I’m going with this." [Saratogian]
Mayor Bloomberg was in Albany trying to get that one more vote, no doubt with promises of continued financial support for Senate Republicans....and he expressed confidence that the votes are there. The question now is whether the Republican leadership will allow the bill to even come to the floor for a vote. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos had previously and repeatedly declared that, though he personally opposed the idea, he would surely allow his members to vote their conscience on the Senate floor.
Of course, Skelos also signed Ed Koch's redistricting pledge when he was in the minority, and then reneged on it when he was back in the majority; instead insisting it be part of a constitutional amendment which could take ten years, long after his desperate party can use their present position to try and overcome their fading demographics in the state. So it's hardly surprising that he now seems to be hedging, and, as of this writing, has still not committed to allowing a vote, with the session scheduled to end on Monday. Despite holding only a bare 32-30 majority in a single chamber and with the Democrats controlling the Assembly and the Governor's mansion, Skelos still seems to be holding all the cards. That's democracy in Albany for you.
- And here's a good one. With the Senate Democrats slowing matters down in the bitterly divided chamber, one Senate Republican had a question.
With Democrats grilling Sen. John Flanagan over a local fire district bill, Ball had enough when Sen. Eric Adams stood up. Ball stood, according to Senate sources, and asked if he could inject a question. He then proceeded to ask Adams the status of the AEG investigation. [Daily Politics]Yeah, actually, I've been wondering about that myself.
Federal law enforcement are known to be looking into the deal, which was consummated when Senate Democrats were in power. Adams was one of several Dems heavily criticized in a scathing Inspector General report last year that ripped the bidding process.