Legal Snags Hamper Gaming Properties in Northeast

New York -- A federal legal dispute could close the casino at Turning Stone, an Indian gaming resort in central New York, while a state legal dispute has delayed the construction of several gaming properties in Pennsylvania.

The U.S. Interior Department last week sent letters to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and the Oneida Indian Nation, which owns Turning Stone, informing them that the federal government is reconsidering its 1993 approval of the compact permitting the Oneidas to operate the casino.

Last year, the state Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, let stand a lower court ruling that the casino operation is illegal because the state legislature had not approved the compact, which was signed by the Oneidas and then-Governor Mario Cuomo.

If the state and Oneidas fail to begin new compact negotiations by April 30, the Interior Department will determine no later than June 14 whether the casino may remain open, according to the letter as reported by local news organizations. The state and Oneidas should submit a new compact for department review no later than Oct. 1, according to the reports.

Turning Stone includes three upscale hotels, restaurants, shops, three golf courses, a spa, and a conference center containing more than 80,000 square feet of meeting space.

In Pennsylvania, companies that won gaming licenses last year have delayed building seven casinos until the state Supreme Court rules on an appeal by four companies that lost out in the bidding.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the appeals, which were filed two weeks ago, in mid-May. But it is not known when the court will rule on the matter.

The state's Gaming Control Board approved licenses for 11, slot machine-only casinos -- six at horsing racing tracks and five at stand-alone properties.

Only one of the stand-alone properties, Mount Airy Casino, in the Pocono Mountains, is under construction. The $360-million project, which broke ground last July, includes a 200-room hotel, golf course, tennis courts, spa, restaurants, 300-seat nightclub, and 100-seat conference center.

The state originally expected that all the stand-alone casinos would open late next year, but now those openings could be delayed for several months.

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