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MONTICELLO, NY-Norwalk, CT-based Steve Winter Associates has been hired by the developers of the proposed casino at Monticello Raceway to explore whether the gaming facility can receive LEED certification. Empire Resorts Inc. and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe are exploring whether the $600-million development can be built in order to be approved by the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design organization.

Steve Winter Associates will direct the LEED certification process. The firm has LEED-certified a number of buildings, including the first LEED-certified building in New York State.

“Empire Resorts looks forward to working with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe in exploring the possibility of building the Northeast’s first green casino,” says Empire Resorts CEO David Hanlon. “This is an exciting, innovative and challenging project and we take great pride in being part of it.”

Mohawk Tribal Chief Lorraine White adds, “The environment has always been our foremost concern in planning for the casino. We are proud to be one of the first casinos in the nation to consider the implementation of advanced environmentally-friendly systems.”

At present, the developers are unsure whether the LEED designation will increase the development cost for the project.

“The environmental aspects we are implementing could represent a milestone in casino development,” notes Tribal Chief Barbara Lazore. “We hope our casino will set a new standard for the development of entertainment facilities in the years ahead.”

The casino project is now awaiting final approval from Secretary of the US Department of Interior Dick Kempthorne. If the secretary decides to approve the venture and put the land adjacent to Monticello Raceway into trust, the project could break ground shortly thereafter. As reported by GlobeSt.com, on Feb. 19, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer signed a compact with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe concerning its plan to build the gaming facility, signaling the final state regulatory hurdle that needed to be cleared.

Just days before Gov. Spitzer’s approval, a coalition of community and conservation groups, including the National Defense Council, Orange Environment and the Sullivan County Farm Bureau, filed suit in federal court challenging the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ previous approval of the environmental assessment of the venture. It is unclear whether this litigation will stop the venture from moving forward if it gets the last go-ahead from the US Department of Interior.

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