Essex County explores casino possibility

ELIZABETHTOWN – Essex County lawmakers want to explore the possibility of bringing a casino to the area, but they first want to see if the North Country is even an option.

Jay town Supervisor Randy Douglas, chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors, said at Monday’s Ways and Means Committee meeting that he recently wrote to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to find out if an Essex County casino would violate an exclusivity compact between Native American groups and the state of New York.

“Before we move any further we would like to clarify as to whether Essex County would be considered for such a project,” Douglas wrote.

Cuomo has proposed locating up to three casinos in upstate New York as part of a plan to bolster the economy. The state Legislature has already passed one measure to amend the state’s Constitution to allow for up to seven casinos to be built in New York; that same measure would have to pass again this year and then be approved by voters.

The casino proposal was taken out of budget negotiations last week. A spokesman for the govenor’s press office told the Enterprise that lawmakers may still act on the plan later this spring.

State Sen. Betty Little told the Enterprise recently that parts of the North Country are affected by an exclusivity compact with casinos operated on Native American land in Clinton and Franklin counties. A new casino could only be opened if the compact is violated, something Little believes may have happened when slot machines were opened on Ganienkeh territory in Clinton County.

A message left for a Mohawk Tribal Council lawyer hadn’t been returned as of press time.

Meanwhile, Douglas has appointed a special committee to explore the possibility of opening a casino in Essex County.

“If (Cuomo) comes back with, ‘It’s a possibility,’ then we will gather again and meet and discuss all possible options regarding a casino,” he told supervisors Monday.

In his letter to the governor, Douglas said that a few potential sites for a casino have been identified, including the former Frontier Town amusement park in the town of North Hudson.