Thursday, December 17, 2009


Shinnecock Tribe Jubilant, Plans For Casino
Though The Residents Of Upscale Southampton May Not Like It, The Area May One Day Be Teaming With Gamblers Reporting
Jennifer McLogan SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y.

The Shinnecock Indian Nation of Southampton is celebrating the news they've waited to hear for decades -- a preliminary approval to formally recognize the tribe could soon open the reservation to casino gambling.

Along the shores of the 800-acre reservation there was ecstasy and emotion among the members of the tribe.

"They told us what the ruling was and people just bolted out the door, and tears, just tears of joy and I'm just still kind of shaken," said tribal chairman Randy King.

Following a 30-year court battle the ruling from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs potentially clears a path for the region's first casino.

"We like to be wanted and that is a good position for us to be in. And we are just waiting for a call from the governor's office to sit down and we can start negotiating terms and sites," tribal trustee Fred Bess said.

If formal federal recognition is granted as expected, within six months the tribe would be entitled to open a casino with thousands of video slot machines. It would be just stone's throw from one of Long Island's wealthiest communities and celebrity mansions.

Southampton residents CBS 2 HD spoke to didn't share the tribe's jubilation.

"It's gonna bring more traffic. It's so bad in the summer time," one person said.

"I'm not in favor of casinos or gambling," another said.

"It's certainly going to change the tranquility of the village," added another resident.

But leaders said they would prefer to use their Southampton lands as a bargaining chip and negotiate with the state and federal government to build a resort casino elsewhere, perhaps Belmont or Aqueduct, with table games, restaurants and hotels.

"A casino is just part of economic opportunity. And every nation needs an economy to be self sufficient. It's just one of the benefits that come with being federally recognized," said tribal trustee Gordell Wright.

Recognition, leaders said, will bring badly needed funding for social and educational programs, and housing help for its 1,000 members whose history goes back to the 1600s.

"I absolutely believe they deserve recognition and they deserve to earn a living!" one resident said. "If it's going to bring good things to the economy and east end of Long Island it should happen."

The tribe is also hoping to resolve more than $1 billion in land disputes involving the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club and Stony Brook's Southampton campus.

Tribal leaders said rather than waiting until May for the recognition process to end, they aim to get on with casino plans without delay.

According to the Department of the Interior, the tribe had to meet seven criteria for approval and needed to demonstrate it was a continuous American Indian entity since before 1900.

EDITORIAL FOOTNOTE: Congratulations to the Shinnecock tribe. It looks like this time the B.I.A. got it right, unlike what happened to two Connecticut Indian tribes who were given Federal Recognition only to have the State of Connecticut and other entities, have it rescinded.

Insiders from Long Island, say there are rumors that a trade by the Shinnecocks with Suffolk County that part of Gabreski Airport (the former Suffolk Air Force Base, in Westhampton) could be traded so a casino could be built. There is also a rumor that Calverton (the former Grumman facility) or at Pilgrim State Hospital (Brentwood area) could be used to build a casino, besides the Aqueduct or Belmont (horse race tracks on the borders on Nassau and Queens Counties).

No matter which location is chosen, the site should be on the east side of New York City (Manhattan), basically giving N.Y.C. inhabitants two choices for slot machines (the other being Yonkers Raceway). This could basically keep slot players from traveling to Atlantic City, New Jersey casinos or the casinos in Connecticut.

Is this going to happen? What will the effect be on the casinos in Southeastern Connecticut? Is this the beginning of the end for the casinos in Connecticut? What plans do the Mohegan Tribal Council have to offset this situation? What do you think?


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