Senate Committee To Hold Casino Hearings

John J. Bonacic

February 09, 2005

The Senate Committee which oversees Housing, Construction, and Community Development policy across the State will hold hearings relating to Governor Pataki’s proposed casino legislation.

State Senator John Bonacic is Chairman of the standing Senate Committee on Housing, Construction & Community Development and also represents Sullivan County, where five casinos are proposed as part of Governor George Pataki’s land claim settlement negotiation.

"The Governor’s sweeping land claim settlements addresses an issue which has been a source of discontent for decades in this State. He deserves tremendous credit for his efforts to bring these land claims to closure. It is my intent to provide the public with the opportunity to comment on the terms of the land claim settlements and their impact on communities across the State," Senator Bonacic said.

The Senator said that the community development impacts of the casino settlements "will bring finality to concerns of property owners in land claim areas but will also have significant impacts in those areas where casino gaming will occur. Ensuring those impacts are fully heard by the Members of the Legislature, and Congress, is important," Senator Bonacic said.

Bonacic indicated he would invite representatives of New York’s Congressional delegation, to be part of the public hearing process.

"Congressional action on the land claim settlements is, perhaps, more important than State action, since Congressional action is needed to extinguish the land claims. I also want to emphasize that it is important that the hearing process be timely, so that in the event the Legislature and Congress do want to move forward, we can do so expeditiously," Senator Bonacic said.

Topics to be covered by the hearings include:

* The impact on the communities where land claims exist;

* The terms of the settlement agreements reached by the Governor’s office and the various tribes;

* The legal basis for determining whether a tribe is "in-state" or "out-of-state";

* Anticipated revenues for casinos and the basis for determining those revenues;

* Sales Tax Parity;

* The community impact on five casinos in the Sullivan/Ulster region:

- School Impacts

- Transportation Impacts

- Housing Impacts

- Law Enforcement Impacts

* Use of $15 million per tribe impact fee;

* Use of proposed State created Catskills-Shawangunk fund, specifically:

- Locale of where that fund may be used;

- Method for dissemination of that fund;

- Ability to modify the use of the fund as local needs change;

- Amount of fund;

- Duration of fund.

Senator Bonacic indicated that he would invite testimony from the following:

- Representatives of the County Legislatures from all impacted Counties, including land settlement counties and counties which may be the site of gaming;

- Law enforcement representatives;

- School officials from Sullivan County BOCES;

- Representatives of the Governor’s land claim negotiating team;

- Representatives from the NYS Department of Transportation;

- Expert witnesses relating to growth impacts on schools;

- Representatives of the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs;

- Representatives of the construction industry;

- Local law enforcement officials;

- Representatives of the AFL-CIO;

- Representatives of the gamblers anonymous;

- Native American representatives.

The hearing schedule is as follows:

February 28, 2005: Albany, Legislative Office Building, Hearing Room A, 11 AM.

March 3, 2005: Monticello, 11 AM, location to be announced.

"The purpose of these hearings is for the Senate Committee overseeing community development across this State to receive substantive testimony based on facts and opinions logically developed by facts. Hearings should be about substance, not political theater," concluded Senator Bonacic.