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St. Regis Mohawk tribal chiefs and North Country leaders with Governor Cuomo Tuesday in Albany.
St. Regis Mohawk tribal chiefs and North Country leaders with Governor Cuomo Tuesday in Albany.

Mohawks ink gaming exclusivity deal for North Country

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Fresh off a deal with the Oneida Nation, Governor Cuomo stood with chiefs of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe this afternoon to announced a deal to resolve gaming issues that affect the North Country.

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The Mohawks will resume paying the state 25% of the revenues from its Akwesasne Mohawk casino near Massena. The tribe will also pay back $30 million it has withheld over the last three years. St. Lawrence and Franklin counties will once again see their shares of that revenue, including immediate payments of $3.75 million each.

In return, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe will get exclusive gaming rights across the eight-county North Country. That effectively eliminates the region as a potential site for one of the three proposed state-operated casinos. "The state affirms by this agreement that the Mohawks are in good standing," said Cuomo, "and therefore this region will not be part of the casino gaming bill."

The deal will bring relief to the two cash-strapped counties. Speaking in Albany Tuesday, St. Lawrence County legislature chairman Jonathan Putney said "not only will this deal bring much needed revenue to local governments across the North Country, it will provide a consistent stream of revenue moving forward."

The deal does not resolve the Mohawks’ decades-old claim to 12,000 acres of land in the two counties. Cuomo said the state would renew efforts to settle that issue, too.

St. Regis Mohawk Chief Paul Thompson said the Akwesasne reservation is “bursting at the seams”. He said land matters more than money. "We have like 400 people that live in Massena because they can’t find land or housing on our territory," said Thompson, "so this is the most important issue to us."

Just last week, the Mohawks opened a new luxury hotel as a part of a $72 million casino expansion. The Mohawks have scheduled a press conference for noon Wednesday at the casino.

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