Officials: County Should Explore Casino Bid, Regardless of State’s Compact with Mohawks
The St. Regis Mohawks’ compact with New York State, giving the tribe an exclusive right to operate gambling casinos within an eight county region that includes Warren, appears to be binding, said Martin Auffredou, the county attorney.
“New York State amended its 1993 agreement with the Mohawks in 2004 to give exclusive rights to the tribe in return for 25% of the gross annual revenues up to $72 million,” said Auffredou. “I’ve heard, as many others have, that the tribe is in breach of the contract, but I don’t know that for a fact, and I wouldn’t speculate as to its consequences.”
But the exclusivity compact, which would appear to bar casino gambling in Warren County if New York State legalizes it later this year, should not deter county leaders from seeking a casino, said Lake George Village Mayor Bob Blais.
“I would take the issue to the public and test the waters; don’t be afraid of lawsuits and threats. Go after a casino. The pay off could be substantial, which is why a large segment of the business community has expressed overwhelmingly support for a casino in Lake George,” said Blais.
Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson said he, too, believed Warren County should not be deterred by the compact.
“Even if the exclusivity contract is valid, and I’m not certain that it is, we should be moving forward,” said Dickinson. “Many of my constituents in Lake George want to bring casino gambling here, and I’m doing everything I can to support them.”
According to Bill Dow, the president of thre Lake George Steamboat Company, supporters of a casino in Lake George include executives at Fort William Henry, Roaring Brook, Magic Forest and Waterslide World.
“No matter what I do, and I’m doing everything I can, our business has been steadily declining since 1998,” said Dow. “We very much need a new tourism draw to stabilize our economy.”
Blais said he was no longer advocating a study of casino gambling’s potential impacts for Warren County.
“I agree with Bill Dow, who says that we already have the facts, which are that gambling will be a tourism magnate and that we need new assets if we’re to remain competitive,” said Blais.
Blais said he believes Warren County has already lost valuable time if Lake George is to be a contender for one of the few casinos which, if a constitutional amendment legalizing casinos is passed, would be allotted to upstate New York.
“Saratoga is already lobbying Albany, while we haven’t done anything. I’ve listened to folks in Albany. In the fight for a casino, Saratoga is at the top,” he said.
Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe said that support among the Warren County Board of Supervisors appeared to be luke warm at best.
If Warren County is allotted a casino, the Supervisors want to make certain that local residents have the option to accept or reject it, Monroe said.