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MONTICELLO, NY-The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe believes its plan to build a casino at the Monticello Raceway here is one step closer to reality. The Tribal Council reports that Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Indian Affairs George Skibine has sent a letter to New York Gov. George Pataki that addresses some concerns the governor had last month about the tribe’s plans before the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The letter reconfirms the validity of a two-part affirmative determination issued almost six years ago by the Bureau of Indian Affairs on an application by the tribe to build a casino at the raceway site, Tribal Council officials say. A short time after it received the green light from the Bureau of Indian Affairs in April 2000, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe switched its project site to the Kutsher’s Sports Academy in the Town of Thompson. Recently, the Tribal Council decided to partner with Empire Resorts Inc., the owner and operator of Monticello Raceway, and bring the project back to its original location.

“The Tribal Council is confident that the department has responded adequately and affirmatively to Gov. Pataki and that the Tribe’s development of a casino project in Sullivan County has moved one step closer to reality,” Saint Regis Mohawk tribal chief Lorraine M. White says. Tribal Council leaders also note that Skibine’s letter puts a time frame of January 2006 for the department to complete its review and issue a determination on the tribe’s environmental submissions and whether they satisfy the National Environmental Policy Act.

“Mr. Skibine’s letter is definitive proof that the tribe’s development of a casino project at the Monticello Raceway is now squarely in the hands of the governor,” White says. “The department has committed to completing the land-in-trust process within two months of receiving the governor’s concurrence. In light of this commitment, we again ask the governor to support our efforts to develop a casino in Sullivan County and to issue his immediate concurrence.”"We appreciate the Bureau of Indian Affairs updating us on their process and look forward to hearing from them when they’ve decided what, if any, further environmental or other reviews need to be completed,” a spokesperson for Pataki says. David P. Hanlon, president and CEO of Empire Resorts, issued a statement which adds that the Skibine letter has removed a great deal of uncertainty regarding the tribe’s federal approvals for the project at Monticello Raceway. “In affirming the two-part determination, the BIA has validated our strategy and brought us closer to being the first company to establish a world-class casino in the Catskills in conjunction with our partners the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe. This sets both the stage and the timeline for a final conclusion after many years of perseverance.”

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