9,000 new jobs forecast for Indian-run casino

October 20, 1994|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Western Maryland Bureau of The Sun

CUMBERLAND -- A proposed Indian-run casino atop Wills Mountain here could create as many as 9,000 jobs with a payroll of $458 million, the would-be developer said yesterday.

The proposal to build a gaming casino and hotel atop the mountain overlooking Cumberland would cost $75 million to $100 million, said James L. Silvester, president of BAS Breckinridge .. Group, consulting, investment banking and mortgage companies in Winchester, Va.

The figures are based on the operations of another Indian-run casino, called Foxwoods, in Connecticut, he said. That casino is owned and run by the Mashantucket Pequot Indians and attracts thousands of gamblers every day, Mr. Silvester said.

He is trying to interest a Shawnee tribe that operates a bingo establishment in Oklahoma and New York developer Donald Trump in the project. He also plans to meet with the developers of the Foxwoods casino, he said.

Affiliation with the Indian group is important to the gambling proposal because under a 6-year-old federal law, Indians can operate such businesses on their land, regardless of state regulations. The Shawnee are said to have connections with Western Maryland that predate colonization.

A more detailed economic impact study on the Cumberland project will be released next month, said Mr. Silvester. He made his remarks during a news conference to discuss concerns raised by Cumberland residents about the project, which was made public last week.

He said the Wills Mountain site is one of several -- others are in Virginia and Allegany County -- under consideration, but the scenic spot is "our choice site at the moment."

The casino and hotel, he said, would be built in "good taste," incorporating Native-American themes and Colonial architecture. The building would not likely be visible from the valley, and no neon signs would be plastered on Wills Mountain.

Whether a casino is built on the site depends on the Shawnee, who, Mr. Silvester said, may deem the site sacred. Their ancestors roamed the Western Maryland mountains centuries ago until they were pushed westward by the expanding colonies.

Thomas A. Nida, vice president of BAS Mortgage/Breckenridge, said an archaeological survey needs to be done to determine whether there have been Indian burials.

Regardless of whether the casino project proceeds on that site, Mr. Silvester said the Shawnee want to develop the site into a Native-American park with trails, villages, an amphitheater and possibly a museum to showcase Native-American culture.

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