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February 20, 2008

Empire Resorts announced plans for $700 million development project build a luxury resort and conference center on 160 acres of the former Concord Hotel. The Concord closed in 1998 but continues to operate its golf courses. Plans include moving the Monticello Raceway harness track and its 1,500 slot machines about 2.5 miles to the property. If approved by the State Racing and Wagering Board, the new casino will open by 2010.

The Concord plan follows rejection by the U.S. Department of Interior for a $600 million casino at Monticello Raceway in partnership with the St. Regis Mohawks. The raceway plan had preliminary federal approval, a successful environmental study, and support from Gov. Spitzer and local officials, but the federal government made a change of policy regarding the commuting distance between the reservation and the casino, and that resulted in denial of the tribe's application. On January 11th the tribe sued the Secretary of Interior calling his decision "arbitrary and capricious".

The Mohawks oppose Empire's new plan and issued a press release calling it an "express breach" of its gambling agreements. Lorraine M. White, the chief of the Mohawks, said state law mandates that only Indian tribes can operate casinos in the Catskills. "We're dismayed and angered. We will pursue the protection of our interests through the courts, if necessary."

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