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Apr 18, 2008 5:43 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Businessman orders electronic gaming cards

Apr 18, 2008 5:43 PM

A member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation has placed an order for 25,000 electronic gaming cards—electronic versions of scratch-off tickets that cannot be legally sold outside Indian reservations—that he intends to market starting this summer.

The cards were purchased by Jonathan Smith, the president of Electronic Gaming Zone, an online arcade entertainment site, according to a release circulated last Thursday by Electronic Game Card Inc., the manufacturer of the new technology that is aimed at the Indian gaming market.

On Monday Mr. Smith explained that despite his tribal membership, he does not intend to sell the cards on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation. Mr. Smith said the order is part of his new business venture of selling and promoting the electronic instant win scratch-off cards to existing Indian casinos throughout the country.

Electronic Game Card initially named the Shinnecock tribe—not a single businessman—as the purchaser of the cards and noted that the order was “part of the Shinnecocks’ ongoing activities in the gaming market.”

Shortly afterward, the Shinnecock Indian Nation’s Board of Trustees denied any connection or approval of the purchase. The trustees also said the purchase did not lay the groundwork for any future gaming on the reservation, nor was it related to the tribe’s bid for federal recognition.

In a statement released last Thursday, the Shinnecock Nation Board of Trustees said Mr. Smith’s actions are in no part authorized by the tribe, nor do his comments “reflect the opinions, intentions or plans of the Nation.”

The press release from the London- and New York-based gaming company was corrected on Friday to reflect that the order is from a tribal member, not the tribe. It still points out that Mr. Smith operates out of Shinnecock Indian territory, gives background on the tribe’s history and population, and quotes him explaining the $20 cards as part of growth plans “as we introduce exciting new games this summer.”

Mr. Smith refuted the suggestion that Electronic Game Card could be using the Shinnecock name to attract investors and new business, instead explaining that the initial release was a “complete misunderstanding.” He said the correction included the information on the Shinnecocks and his membership to enhance his credibility when selling the cards to other tribes across the country.

“It can be very confusing,” Mr. Smith said, noting that EGC is based in England and understands little about Indian tribes or that his tribal membership does not immediately make his business affiliated with the Shinnecocks

“Some people still don’t know we live in houses,” he said.

Thomas Dodd, managing director for EUMBC Ltd., an EGC affiliate company, said Mr. Smith’s cards contain a random matrix that can be programmed for players to win prizes, such as merchandise or cash, depending on the intended use. They are designed for lotteries, promotional drives and non-profit fund-raisers, Mr. Dodd said, adding that Mr. Smith’s order was only mid-sized. He noted that Mr. Smith’s cards would be programmed in early May, after he determined their intended use, and they would be delivered 90 days after that.

Mr. Smith said he has been contacted by a number of Indian casinos interested in using the cards for games and promotions, where the casino’s logo would be placed on the card, along with an advertised prize, to draw people to gaming facilities. He said charities could also be potential customers for the cards.

The Shinnecock Indian Nation went before a federal judge in Central Islip on Friday afternoon to make its case for federal recognition as a tribe, which members say the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs has illegally denied them. The designation would allow the tribe gaming rights and access to federal funding for a number of tribal programs, including law enforcement, health care, education and capital projects.

While no decision was made, it seems clear U.S. District Court Justice Joseph H. Bianco will not dismiss the Shinnecocks’ lawsuit against the BIA, as the Department of the Interior has asked. Justice Bianco pointed to the tribe’s complaint of unreasonable delays in the recognition process—the application was first submitted in 1978—and asked why, assuming the nation is correctly prioritized on the BIA’s list of applicant tribes, they can’t argue that the process is “just taking too long,” the delay is unreasonable and “there is no reason it should take the Department of the Interior five years to make this decision under these set of circumstances?”

Even more encouraging to the Shinnecock Nation, the judge noted later that litigation to continue the delays would likely be more costly and time consuming than simply expediting the tribe’s request.

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