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ALBANY-While casino opponents have vowed it will appeal, a New York State Supreme Court Justice has issued a ruling that says the state Indian gaming law passed in 2001 is constitutional.

In his July 17 ruling, New York State Supreme Court Justice Joseph C. Teresi also decided that racetracks, including Yonkers and Monticello raceways, could install video lottery terminals.

Justice Teresi in an 11-page decision, stated that he was guided by a ruling in a case entitled “Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce vs. Pataki” in finding that the 2001 casino gaming law that authorized Governor George Pataki to enter compacts with Indian tribes to operate gaming facilities, conforms with the New York State Constitution as well as federal court rulings.

While proponents of casino gaming were quick to praise the judge’s ruling, an attorney representing a coalition opposed to casino gambling vowed to file an appeal.

Cornelius D. Murray, an Albany attorney, tells GlobeSt.com, “Don’t build that casino yet. We are definitely filing an appeal.” He later notes, “This is only the first lap. Litigation is like a marathon, not a sprint. This (ruling) should be considered like an inning in a baseball game.”

Murray, who represents several state lawmakers who are parties to the suit along with the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, adds, “While we are obviously disappointed with this ruling, we are confident that our clients will ultimately prevail on the merits.”

He said the appeal will be filed in the next 30 days in either the New York State Appellate Division or the state’s highest court, the New York State Court of Appeals.

Officials with the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe and Park Place Entertainment, which plan to build a $500 million casino project at the Kutsher’s resort in the Town of Thompson, issued a joint statement on the judge’s ruling and its import to the fight to bring Indian casino gaming to the Catskills.

“We are pleased that the New York Court recognizes that the Tribe’s sovereign right to gaming is consistent with the New York Constitution,” says Saint Regis Mohawk Chief Margaret Terrance. Park Place executive vice president and general counsel Bernard E. DeLury Jr., adds, “Today’s decision by Justice Teresi represents a major step forward in the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe’s efforts to bring the benefits of jobs and economic development to Sullivan County and the State of New York. Justice Teresi makes it clear that Native Americans in New York State have the same right to build and operate casinos as they do in other states, such as Connecticut, that permit other types of Class III gaming.

He continues, “We look forward to working with the newly elected Tribal Chiefs to move forward with development of the Mohawk Mountain Casino Resort.”

The St. Regis Mohawk/Park Place casino development at Kutsher’s is one of three proposed casino ventures in the Catskills at the moment. The others are a $600 million venture by the Stockbridge Munsee Band of Mohicans and Trading Cove Associates to be built on vacant land near Exit 107 of Route 17 in Sullivan County and a $500 million proposal to be built by the Cayuga Nation and an affiliate of Alpha Hospitality at Monticello Raceway.

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