ALBANY, N.Y. ? St. Regis Mohawks handed casino mogul, Donald Trump, a sharp and satisfying defeat in the last hours of the New York State Legislature session June 22.
A revolt against Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in an evening Democratic conference led him to withdraw a bill that threatened plans for a St. Regis tribal off-reservation casino in the decrepit Catskills resort region. Trump's lobbyists were supporting the bill in what was widely considered an attempt to squash potential competition for his Atlantic City, New Jersey, casino.
The assemblyman for the region, Democratic Jacob Gunther of Sullivan County, took his name off the bill after concluding that it could severely hurt prospects for a revived local economy. He persuaded enough caucus members to defer to his local concerns to force the Speaker to back away from plans to bring the bill to the floor.
The victory was no surprise to St. Regis Mohawk Spokeswoman, Rowena General. She had predicted it would fail in the Assembly, controlled by the Democratic Party, since it passed the Republican-led State Senate unanimously several weeks ago.
But the victory was doubly sweet for the tribal council since it blamed Trump for sponsoring a harshly worded series of ads accusing the tribe of money laundering, violence and human smuggling. The tribe turned the campaign back on his head with a series of reply ads urging legislators "to protect New York, not New Jersey and not Donald Trump."
The ads argued effectively that the casino, tentatively planned for a racetrack or a former resort in Monticello, N.Y., would create 7000 jobs and contribute $337 million for the New York economy.
"But the Donald says no. Because Trump suspects a Monticello casino will take money away from his New Jersey gambling empire."
The partner in the casino plans, Arthur Goldberg of Park Place Entertainment, said after the bill was shelved that he would move quickly to put land in federal trust for the Mohawk casino. He predicted that an interim casino could open by the fall of 2001.