Column: St. Regis Mohawk Tribe waits on Kempthorne

"According to the St. Regis Mohawks, the tribe's casino project at the Monticello Gaming & Raceway won't live or die on what Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne thinks about it.

Two tribal chiefs said yesterday that the feds will sign off on the $600 million casino imminently, and the document will be ready for Kempthorne's signature possibly within days.

Once on his desk, Kempthorne can't reject the project based on his opinions about off-reservation gaming, tribal Chiefs Lorraine White and Jim Ransom told the Times Herald-Record editorial board yesterday in Middletown.

White said that Kempthorne is bound by federal law to allow land — in this case just less than 30 acres — to be taken into trust for the casino.

But there's a big if. Kempthorne, who opposes off-reservation casinos, is under no time constraint to act on his staff's recommendation. He could sit on the application for the rest of his term, delaying the project for 18 months.

Ransom dismissed that. "It is a pessimistic viewpoint and we don't share it. It is our intention to get him to sign."

But that might be a case of wishful thinking. Kempthorne has sent more than two dozen tribes with off-reservation casino dreams, including the Mohawks, a letter indicating that final approval is not guaranteed."

Get the Story:
Casino Roulette: Mohawks believe OK's in the cards (The Middletown Times Herald-Record 4/14)