AKWESASNE — A $75 million expansion project that may combine the Mohawk Bingo Palace with Akwesasne Mohawk Casino is going to referendum this month.
A seven-story hotel could also be built at the casino as part of the plan.
The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe is proposing the changes to the community because the 30-year-old bingo operation on the west side of the reservation has started to show its age.
The proposal is coming up now because the tribe's lease on the parking lot used by the Bingo Palace expires in 2012, according to the Indian Time newspaper.
At the same time, maintenance costs at the aging building are making it more expensive to operate and retain the integrity of the structure.
The referendum will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at the Tribal Community Building on Route 37.
Three public hearings will be held at the Community Building before the vote: 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 20; 10 a.m. Saturday, April 23; and 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 27.
WOULD MAXIMIZE PROFITS
Tribal officials declined to comment on the proposal.
But in an announcement of the referendum on its website, the Tribal Council states that "in order to maximize profitability at the tribe's gaming enterprises, it is necessary to both expand the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino to include a hotel and to relocate the Mohawk Bingo Palace to the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino."
The statement concludes by saying the Tribal Council "believes this expansion is necessary and is in the best interest of the tribal membership." The referendum question is straightforward: Do you support the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe's expansion project at the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino?
If approved, construction could begin as early as May.
All Bingo Palace employees would retain their jobs, and about 40 more people would be hired if the project is approved.
But the newspaper states that, during a recent community meeting where the referendum was proposed and discussed, some residents oppose a merger because the Bingo Palace attracts a different type of patron than the casino. Others do not like the idea of the tribe placing itself in direct competition with other lodging businesses in Akwesasne that are owned and operated by tribal members. Still others are concerned with the debt load the community would be asked to carry for the construction project.
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