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ALBANY-Gov. George Pataki has submitted a bill to the New York State Legislature that would approve the terms of a land claim settlement agreement between the state and the Akwesasne Mohawk Indians and pave the way for the development of a Native American casino in Monticello.

The bill includes a settlement with the Akwesasne tribe that would allow the St. Regis Mohawks and development partner Caesar’s Entertainment to build its planned 742-room hotel and 134,000-sf casino at the Kutsher’s Sports Academy property. The project is expected to cost more than $500 million to build and would create nearly 4,000 permanent jobs and hundreds of construction jobs.

“With only a handful of session days remaining in the current legislative session, fairness to the Akwesasne Mohawks and other affected parties dictates that we immediately move forward with this important legislation to approve the settlement agreement,” Pataki says. “The Mohawk agreement already has been thoroughly reviewed following weeks of public hearings in both the Assembly and Senate and I urge both houses to act swiftly to pass this historic legislation.”

Back in April, Pataki withdrew his controversial bill that would have allowed five Native American casinos to be built in Sullivan County. The governor withdrew the bill based on a March 29 US Supreme Court ruling concerning Native American Indian sovereignty, property rights and taxation. Pataki at the time said the case affected four land claim settlement accords with tribes that were proposing casinos in Sullivan County. However, the “Sherrill case” ruling had no impact on the Akwesasne land claim agreement, he stated several months ago and promised that he would submit a new bill asking the State Legislature to approve the Mohawk land claim.

If green-lighted by the legislature, the land claim agreement still must be approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and others before construction can begin. Caesars Entertainment, in response to a favorable New York State Court of Appeals ruling last month that upheld the constitutionality of New York’s 2001 casino gaming law, stated that it would begin construction on the project once it received all the required federal approvals.

A spokesman for Pataki says the governor is committed to reaching revised settlement terms on four other agreements that the state had made with the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma, Cayuga Indian Nation of New York, Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin and Stockbridge-Munsee Community (a Band of Mohican Indians) related to the Cayuga and Oneida Indian land claims. All four Indian tribes have proposed casino resorts in Sullivan County.

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