Dear Gov. Elect Spitzer:
Among your many responsibilities as our new Gov. will be your decisions on casino gambling for the Catskills. This is no simple matter, and there are important layers to the issue.
As you are aware, you will be called upon to finalize the fee to trust transaction whose environmental assessment was recently approved by the BIA on behalf of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe. As you’re also aware, your approval here is needed in for the Tribe’s casino proposal at the Monticello Raceway to proceed. What you may or may not be aware of is that creating federal territories – to be sanctioned, should you decide to approve this fee to trust request – would be precedent setting for our state. This important consideration has only recently begun to receive local attention here in Sullivan County.
The implications of this precedent would be very far reaching for the entire state. I believe that Gov. Pataki, while a fine Gov. in a number of respects, severely underestimated this consideration. The fact that it was absent from his lobbying to legislators and the public implies to me, a lack of adequate commitment to full disclosure and appropriate debate on behalf of the public interest in his charge. Regardless of the decades’ old mantra about “casinos in the Catskills”, this federal territory issue associated with “Indian” casinos has been below the radar. On this point alone, there is ample cause for pause – it is not just about casinos for the Catskills; it’s about the commercial and political implications of federal territories for our state. The public is entitled to full disclosure through a series of public hearings statewide. Once this occurs, I’m sure we could all feel much better about the decision, whichever way it turns.
I believe that casinos for the Catskills – Indian or otherwise – is a poor economic, social and environmental choice, reflecting a lack of commitment to thinking both outside the box and of their longer-term consequences. There are other far more attractive proposals ready for evaluation.
I am not anti gambling.
Rather than go on with many of the concerns others have already expressed to you about the problematic nature of Catskill casinos, and recognizing the support for such from a number of local, state and federal officials, I won’t pretend to be a singular voice of reason. Rather, I would humbly suggest that the economics and social considerations of casino gambling are sufficiently complex so as to warrant expert and relatively objective counsel. I’d further suggest it’s unreasonable to expect such expert counsel to come from those who’ve either not studied the matter, or who’ve done so as paid consultants and lobbyists for the casino or anti-gambling lobby. Much of my motivation here relates to your commitment to clean money and clean elections for which many others and I support. It is self-evident that the money interests driving the Catskill casino debate are, as is often the case, responsible for the sounds reaching the ears of decision makers. This is a second reason for pause. There a number of fine law review articles that I’d be happy to share, as well as the fine text, Gambling in America Costs and Benefits, by Earl L. Grinols, Cambridge University Press, 2004 (no it is not anti-gambling). Such information is expert, peer reviewed, comprehensive and unencumbered.
In summary, the lack of full deliberation on considerations relating to both the fee to trust precedent, and expert unencumbered counsel, are two substantive reasons for exercising great care on this matter.
Additionally, coming from our tate’s highest law enforcement position, I know you appreciate the concern of many area residents by the manner in which our County Law Enforcement was marginalized on this issue here in Sullivan County. Our District Attorney, Steve Lungen, spoke candidly about this unfortunate occurrence, as well as his opinion on the uncompensated damage that even a single casino will mean for our county. D.A. Lungen’s words can be found in the Sullivan County Democrat, September 29, 2006 Issue.
- Submitted by Dave Colavito on 12.27.06