Friday, June 5, 2009


Tribes mum on Shinnecock casino speculation
Mashantuckets, Mohegans support recognition bid

By Brian Hallenbeck Published on 6/5/2009

Neither of the region's casino-owning Indian tribes would comment Thursday on speculation that the Shinnecock Indian Nation could pursue a casino development at a horse racing track on Long Island or in New York City if it gains federal recognition.

Both the Mashantucket Pequots, who own Foxwoods Resort Casino, and the Mohegans, who own Mohegan Sun, indicated they support the Shinnecocks' long-stalled pursuit of recognition, which is expected to move forward by the end of the year.

In a U.S. District Court settlement filed last week, the Interior Department agreed to make a preliminary ruling on the Shinnecocks' application by Dec. 15. A final ruling could follow next year. The tribe would have to be federally recognized before it could develop a casino.

Since the settlement's announcement, the Southampton-based Shinnecocks have said they would consider locating a casino at Belmont Park in Elmont, Long Island, just outside of New York City. The tribe also has expressed interest in Aqueduct Racetrack in the borough of Queens, having submitted a proposal for a casino there in a 2007 round of bids, as did the Mohegans and the Mashantucket Pequots.

Lori Potter, a spokeswoman for the Mashantuckets, said the tribe supports the federal-recognition efforts of any tribe that has historically been recognized by the state in which it is located. “Our tribe extends well wishes to (the Shinnecocks), as this is a long and detailed process,” she said.

”We are not aware of any specifics pertaining to the Shinnecocks' future economic development plans at this time, so we are unable to comment on them,” Potter added.

The Mohegans issued a similar statement from Bruce “Two Dogs” Bozsum, chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council.

”The Mohegan Tribe believes that any deserving tribe within Indian Country should be recognized by the federal government, and we support the Bureau of Indian Affairs' current consideration of the Shinnecock Tribe,” Bozsum said. “The right to sovereignty and self-government is a justified goal for all Native Americans, as is the provision of essential services ensuring the health, welfare and education of tribal members.”

According to its Web site, the Shinnecock Indian Nation has about 1,300 members, about 600 of whom live on a 1,200-acre reservation on Long Island's eastern end. The tribe's annual powwow, which attracts thousands of visitors, is its main source of income.

The Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway in Yonkers, N.Y., just north of New York City, already provides Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun with competition for those who favor slot machines, or video display terminals. The seemingly inevitable introduction of slots at New York's other racetracks would be expected to up the ante.

New York state officials have yet to announce the outcome of a second round of bidding on the construction and management of an Aqueduct casino after Delaware North Companies, of Buffalo, N.Y., the winner of the initial round, withdrew its plan in March.

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which operates Mohegan Sun, expressed interest only in managing a state-owned facility.

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