Tourism-biz operator on the failed Catskills casino: Good riddance

You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. Photo by Flickr user Jim Lynch; published under Creative Commons license.

Now that the federal Departments of the Interior and Justice have put the kibosh on the proposed Stockbridge-Munsee casino in Sullivan County, the prospect of a Catskills Indian casino is all but dead -- again. And while plenty of the usual suspects in the local area are furious, others are just relieved.

Jennifer Grimes, a local realtor (and Watershed Post advertiser) who runs a vacation rental business called Red Cottage Inc., wrote recently on her blog that anybody looking to revitalize the Catskills through gambling is barking up the wrong tree.

If I’m not mistaken, Atlantic City is hardly a symbol of full-employment and great quality of life. And forgive me, but gambling is, well, the opposite of nature. No windows or clocks, oxygen pumped in, all so that no one gets sleepy, and no one knows what time it is. The last thing people are doing is driving to charming local towns, sampling the local farm produce, or picking up handmade mementos in nearby shops. Casino owners do not want you to leave.

Contrast that with our renters (although I’m sure it’s the same for guests at B&Bs, guest houses and boutique hotels). They want to explore, to dine out, to “buy local” and attend fairs or festivals for a little local color. City Escapees want to hike, to stroll through town, to interact, to relax. The elements that they travel for are a pleasing and comfortable “home environment”, the local towns, and the scenery. The bottom line: They will spend money if given the opportunity. Our stumbling block is a shortage of towns that have appealing eateries and shops in a setting that encourages parking the car and exploring the town.

While the feds' rejection of the Stockbridge-Munsee deal seems pretty final, a few New York State pols are still pursuing an increasingly desperate-looking effort to site a casino in Sullivan County. The Times Herald-Record's Victor Whitman reports on the effort, which now involves an amendment to the state constitution legalizing gambling:

Officials reacted to the news of the quick demise of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians to build a $700 million casino in Bridgeville by announcing plans to push for a constitutional change that would legalize commercial gambling in Sullivan County. This is a daunting process that at a minimum will require two years of effort in the Legislature and a statewide referendum. It doesn't appear that Indian gaming will die either.

Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini, who has been a key player in every effort to bring a casino to the town, did come as close as he ever last week to suggesting it might be game over. "The coffin is closed; the only thing missing is the nail," Cellini said.

Among the backers of legalized casino gambling in New York State: local state senator John Bonacic, who's not yet ready to throw in the towel on a Sullivan County casino. (And Bonacic, who was recently made chair of the state senate's Racing and Wagering Committee, has a lot of clout in this arena.)