ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and St. Regis Mohawk tribal leaders signed an agreement yesterday to ensure the Mohawks keep their exclusive casino territory in northern New York while paying the state $30 million in gambling proceeds that have been withheld.
The accord also opens the door to negotiations with the state and counties over Mohawk land claims near their reservation along the Canadian border. Talks are expected to start in 10 days. St. Regis Mohawk Chief Ron LaFrance said the focus will be about 5,000 to 7,000 acres east of the reservation where the tribe is running out of space for homes and businesses.
The state agreed to remove the eight-county region from the Cuomo administration's proposal for three new upstate New York casino resorts, while the tribe agreed to resume paying 25 percent of future gambling revenue to the state, with shares of that again going to Franklin and St. Lawrence counties.
"There's still other issues to work through," Cuomo said. "But I think we're going to get there." Another $30 million in state proceeds are being held in an escrow account pending resolution of the land claims.
The Akwesasne Mohawk Casino in Hogansburg now has more than 1,800 slot machines, table games and a 150-room hotel. A breakaway Mohawk group established slot machines and bingo games at another location without state approval, resulting in the tribe's withholding of revenue to the state starting in 2010.