The United States Department of the Interior has denied applications by two Indian tribes to build casinos near New York City. Both the St. Regis Mohawk and the Stockbridge Munsee tribes desire to open casinos in Sullivan County, New York. Letters were sent to the leaders of each tribe by Associate Deputy Secretary James Cason rejecting the requests.
The reasons stated in the letters for not allowing the construction of the new casinos are consistent with Interior policy in recent years to oppose Indian casinos built off reservation lands. “The remote location of the proposed gaming facility may encourage reservation residents to leave the reservation for an extended period to take advantage of the job opportunities created,” Cason wrote in each letter.
He contends this drainage of residents from the reservation could have long-lasting and severe negative effects on the remaining community and its members.
The Mohawk Reservation is 350 miles from the proposed sites, the Stockbridge more than 1000 miles.
Tribes across the country have argued that Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne has not given fair consideration to casino proposals, looking to find any reason to deny applications. Kempthorne was known as a staunch gambling opponent when he was Governor of Idaho.
The tribes prefer the Sullivan County locations due to their proximity to New York City. A huge flow of traffic would be expected if the casinos were built; the Mohawk project alone would bring over 3000 jobs permanently, and feature 125 table games and 3500 slots, along with 25 poker tables.
Perhaps the solution to this standoff will be forthcoming after the national election, when a new administration and a new Secretary of the Interior may likely have different views. It certainly seems argumentative to suggest tribe members could be damaged by receiving newly created jobs, or by huge new sources of tribal revenue. Reasoning so specious as to propose these casinos will have a negative effect on the tribes can only conceal a deeper, hidden agenda.