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Jun 3, 2009 1:03 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Federal recognition for Shinnecocks would boost casino effort

Jun 3, 2009 1:03 PM

The prospect of the Shinnecock Indian Nation gaining the right to operate a gaming facility as early as next summer has already sparked a rush to identify possible sites for one in the New York metro area.

And the prospect of giant financial gains for struggling communities and municipal entities that could host a casino has prompted the Belmont Racetrack in Nassau County to join the short list of contenders for a facility that analysts say would have the potential to be one of the largest and most profitable gambling facilities in the world.

Shinnecock leadership says it would prefer a location “east of the Catskills and west of Suffolk County,” which would indicate a preference for a facility adjacent to Belmont, an idea that had been introduced by state legislators representing the area, or Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, a site the tribe identified in a proposal last year for a $2 billion hotel and casino. The stated preferences may also mean the tribe is less optimistic that a site can be found in Suffolk County.

Plans for a large-scale casino near the tribe’s hometown seem increasingly unlikely But during a phone interview last week, the three Shinnecock tribal trustees, Chairman Randy King, Fred Bess and Gordell Wright, did not entirely rule out the tribe’s 800-acre reservation just outside Southampton Village as an option for the sort of small gambling facility—primarily featuring video gaming machines—that the tribe will be entitled to open almost immediately upon receiving federal recognition.

“That is a reality that we have to contend with, but it’s a path we haven’t gone down yet,” Mr. King said. “It is a fact that we may be able to open a Class 2 facility on the reservation once we’re recognized, but it’s not a path we have gone down or intend to.”

“As a business matter, closer to a density of population is where you want to be,” Mr. Bess added.

The Shinnecocks announced last Wednesday that they had reached a settlement on a portion of a court case they filed in 2006 against the federal Department of the Interior over the their decades-old application for federal recognition. The settlement will put their recognition application on a fast track for approval, possibly by mid-summer 2010.

“Within that time frame, we hope to sit down with the governor’s office to settle some of the other issues,” Mr. King said, hinting at the tribe’s land-claim lawsuit and other bargaining chips they may leverage to work out a deal for a full-fledged casino somewhere in the state.

The 1988 federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act gives federally recognized tribes the right to operate limited gaming facilities on tribal lands. Larger gaming operations, including table games and slot machines, can be added only if a tribe can reach a compact with their state’s government, usually requiring that a substantial portion of the additional revenue goes to state programs like education and health care aid. A tribe may develop a casino off tribal lands if it purchases a property and places it in a federal trust through an agreement with the Department of the Interior.

Some local lawmakers this week said they support the tribe’s efforts to earn federal recognition and acknowledged that it would likely mean the tribe will someday operate a casino. But they said they would not support a proposal to locate a gaming facility of any kind on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation or elsewhere in Southampton Town.

“I think we all expect that they are going to be granted federal recognition—the Shinnecock pretty readily meet that standard,” state Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said. “I have never supported casino gaming as a form of economic development, and I have vehemently opposed it when talked about on eastern Long Island. So, while I don’t support gaming at all, I feel an obligation to help them identify an appropriate location [for a casino], because the default position is that it comes back to the reservation.

“The critical factor here is what location can the Shinnecocks find that can host gaming and generate community support,” he continued. “It’s a complicated process so it’s better to start early.”

Mr. Thiele noted that the Aqueduct Racetrack has already been designated as a potential site for video gambling by the state legislature. The Belmont Racetrack does not have such a designation, though state legislators from the area have been pressing to allow gaming there as an economic stimulus for the area.

Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot said this week that the town, which last year won a lawsuit it filed against the Shinnecocks over a tribe proposal to build a casino on a property it owns in Hampton Bays, would not oppose the federal recognition application, even though the town may have little recourse if the tribe sought to put a gaming facility on their reservation.

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"In a proposal last year for last year for a $2 billion hotel and casino... a facility that analysts say would have the potential to be one of the largest and most profitable gambling facilities in the world.

That's for everyone who thinks a casino in HB would be cute and cuddly. For those who don't live in HB. Come on by at around 8am ck out the traffic now.

I know some of you must think I sound like a broken record... Well, maybe. I just don't want my town to become a broken ...more
By Soundview (89), Hampton bays on Jun 4, 09 1:01 PM
The only problem with that is that there are already people of the tribe who try to decide who gets what. So may God help us all if this Casino goes up! And I pray that Federal Recognition doesn't go through until people are in sync and agreement with one another and do the right thing by all. A decision can't be made by just a select few, we must all be in agreement or it will be our downfall.

"He that trusteth in his riches shall fall" Proverbs 11:28
By Lahleas (12), Southampton on Jun 4, 09 7:10 PM
Shinnecock plans are being bankrolled by Marian Ilitch owner of the Detroit Red Wings, Detroit's MotorCity Casino and Little Caesars pizza. Her husband Miike Ilitch owns Detroit Tigers. Among other bills they've covered $1.6 million in federal lobbying expenses for the tribe.

Their original plan was for a 65,000 sq ft casino in Hampton Bays (The Westwoods) -- 84 miles from Times Square.

Then Ilitch proposed a 495,000 sq ft casino at Aqueduct Racetrack -- 14 miles from Times ...more
By Frank Lee (3), Detroit on Jun 8, 09 4:52 AM
INS you speak of history of gambling establishments in HB. In what time period? And in what capacity? 65,000 feet? I don't remember anything in recent history that size and with the traffic congestion we have. Is it apples and oranges comparing now to horse and buggy traffic? I will have to hit the library for that read.
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Jun 8, 09 11:48 AM
I will get that book, sounds interesting. I would love my taxes lowered. Remember when Shorham had the nuke plant? The taxes were low and the schools had the best of everything. I'm just not sure I want our town to look like Atlantic City outskirts, ya know? And when asking other towns surrounding casinos not many are very positive about it.
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Jun 9, 09 4:21 PM
INS who are you???
By Lahleas (12), Southampton on Jun 18, 09 6:25 PM
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