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Investors Bet on Empire Resorts Win

Shares surge on a report that a major hurdle has been cleared for the company's casino project.

Updated from 11:08 a.m. EST

Shares of

Empire Resorts


surged 15% Friday following a report that the federal government approved an environmental review of the company's Catskills casino project.

The company owns a harness racing track outside Monticello, N.Y., on which the St. Regis Mohawk Indian Tribe is looking to develop a $600 million casino project. Empire would build the casino. The current site already features 1,500 electric gambling machines, such as video poker.

The New York Times

reported that James Cason, the associate deputy secretary for Indian affairs at the Interior Department, said that the agency determined the proposed casino would not have a significant environmental impact.

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The approval would be a significant step forward for the project, which has been delayed amid political issues and opposition from rivals in Atlantic City, N.J.

Cason wasn't immediately available for comment Friday. Nedra Darling, an Interior Department spokeswoman, said a so-called Finding of No Significant Impact, or FONSI, has not been not signed yet.

"I think we're near the process to end and it be signed, but we're not there today," Darling said.

Empire Resorts indicated in a

Securities & Exchange Commission

filing Friday that it has not received notificication of a FONSI.

"In the event that Empire Resorts, Inc. receives notification that the Tribe has received a FONSI, it will report such information," the company said.

Empire shares recently were up $1.24 to $9.67. The stock earlier hit an intraday 52-week high of $10.20. The stock's previous 52-week high of $8.83 was reached in October; the shares traded at a 52-week low of $4.12 in March.