Shinnecocks Are Back In The Game

About a month after the Shinnecock Indian Nation voted against signing a new contract with the Detroit-based Gateway Casino Resorts, the tribe seems back on track with plans to bring a casino to the greater New York area.

Last month, members of the tribe overwhelmingly approved revisions to the contract.

“This Tribal vote means that major contract terms between the Nation and Gateway have been explained and clarified, legitimate concerns will continue to be addressed, and that the leadership will pursue economic opportunities for the Shinnecock people, including off-reservation gaming on Long Island,” the tribe said in a press release.

Though they have yet to ratify the entire document, which must be done before definitive casino plans can be discussed, the vote is a major victory for those in the tribe looking to bring Class III gaming to Long Island. The exact terms of the contract, which was approved by a vote of 101-10, have not been revealed.

The February vote came within 24 hours of Governor b Cuomo’s statement to Newsday that a casino at Belmont Park, currently one of the most viable sites for the Shinnecock Indian Nation, would not make economic sense, as it competes with a possible casino and convention center at Acqueduct Racetrack in Queens.

Cuomo showed his support for redeveloping the Acqueduct Racetrack during his State of the State speech on January 4. As a part of the proposed plans, Cuomo hopes to amend the state constitution to allow for private-sector casinos so that the Genting Group of Malaysia, who run the slot machines at Acqueduct, could fund the new project. Currently, only Indian-owned casinos are allowed in New York State.

Allowing privately-funded casinos to exist in the state could put additional snags in the Shinnecock’s bid. In addition to officially ratifying the contract, the Shinnecock Indian Nation would have to reach a settlement with New York regarding the state’s share of tax revenues from the casino before it is built.

Gateway and the Shinnecock Indian Nation initially entered into a partnership in 2004. In the years that followed, Gateway has financially supported the tribe in their bid to build a casino by footing millions of dollars in legal bills and monthly stipends for salaries for roughly 24 tribal jobs.

In December, the tribe voted not to ratify a new contract with Gateway. There was an apparent distrust within the tribe surrounding Gateway Casinos, but both sides agreed that the veto did not signify an end to their relationship. Rather, all parties would review the terms of the contract and convene at a later date.