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May 8, 2008 2:10 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Shinnecocks highlight potential benefits of casino to Suffolk County Legislature

May 8, 2008 2:10 PM

The leadership of the Shinnecock Indian Nation told members of the Suffolk County Legislature on Wednesday that having a casino in the county would be an enormous financial boon to nearly every sector of the local economy.

In a pitch that highlighted the financial windfalls and job growth brought to rural Connecticut by the development of the mammoth Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos, the Shinnecock leaders told the five county legislators on the Economic Development, Higher Education and Energy Committee that a Shinnecock-sponsored casino would bring vast economic benefits to Suffolk County if a suitable site is found.

Thousands of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in revenues for schools, police and fire departments and business for local contractors, would follow the development and growth of a casino here, Shinnecock Tribal Trustees chairman Fred Bess and Trustee Lance Gumbs told the legislators in a public presentation at the legislature’s offices in Hauppauge.

Tribal leaders said that in the near future they expect to receive federal recognition, which will allow them to pursue a casino, through a lawsuit they have filed in federal court. Once the suit is settled, the tribe will only have to secure land for the development of a gaming facility that studies have shown could equal or even exceed the size of Foxwoods, the world’s largest casino. Foxwoods has 340,000 square feet of gaming space and the entire facility, including the resort, is 4.7 million square feet, according to its website, foxwoods.com.

The tribal leaders dismissed concerns raised during their long legal battle with Southampton Town that a casino would bring crippling traffic, crime, prostitution and blight to the surrounding community. The Connecticut casinos have not produced such negative results, they said.

Though the tribe could build on its 800-acre reservation on the edge of Southampton Village, Mr. Gumbs and Mr. Bess said the tribe would rather build at a more suitable site farther west. The most likely route to development would be for the tribe to buy a large swath of land and place it in a federal trust so that it could be used for a casino.

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