Press-Republican

April 7, 2013

Essex County wants casino

LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

ELIZABETHTOWN — If the state is giving out casino allocations, Essex County is interested.

County Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) wrote to Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently and expressed the county’s desire to be on the list if non-Indian gambling casinos are going to be permitting.

Cuomo has proposed allowing three new casinos in upstate New York, a plan that requires changing the state’s constitution with a public referendum.

“We’ll see if we hear back from the state,” Douglas said. “I thought I’d at least give it a try. It would help the county economically.”

SITES SUGGESTED

Douglas’s letters says the county has identified possible casino sites at the former Frontier Town theme park in North Hudson and the vacant Lowe’s Home Center in Ticonderoga.

Essex County is in the process of seizing most of the old Frontier Town complex, including the A-frame entrance building, Western town and restaurant, for non-payment of property taxes.

The complex, which was sold at a previous tax sale, is expected to be listed on the next sale, planned for this spring.

Frontier Town has not operated since 1998.

RESTRICTIONS

“Before we move any further, we would like to clarify as to whether Essex County would be considered for such a project,” Douglas wrote.

“We realize there are restrictions with previous agreements between the state of New York and various Native American groups.”

The Seneca and Mohawk tribes have withheld casino payments to the state and local municipalities, saying the state violated contracts with the tribes by allowing gambling in other territories.

The St. Regis Mohawks, who operate a casino on the Akwesasne Reservation, decided in October 2010 to stop making payments, citing slot machines located on Indian territory elsewhere in northern New York.

After almost two and a half years, Franklin and St. Lawrence counties and four surrounding towns say they are due more than $12 million as their share of casino revenue.

AWAITS DECISION

If the State Legislature legalizes casinos on non-Indian land, voters would make the final decision in a referendum this year or next.

Should that happen, the governor has said he wants the newly formed New York State Gaming Commission to solicit proposals from casino developers and award the three sites based on competition.

“If he (Cuomo) says yes, there could be a casino here, then we will start looking at what we should do next,” Douglas said.

The Town of Moriah has also written to the governor, asking if a site on Lake Champlain in the Village of Port Henry could be considered.

Both the town and village own large amounts of lakefront and operate public campgrounds overlooking Lake Champlain.

Email Lohr McKinstry:lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com