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Feb 3, 2012 5:08 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Shinnecocks Moving Forward On Gaming Contract

Feb 8, 2012 10:59 AM

A month after rejecting a request by the Shinnecock Indian Nation’s Tribal Trustees to ratify a contract with Detroit casino developers, members of the tribe gave a strong vote of approval to some key revised components of a contract that stands to earn the developer tens of millions of gaming dollars.

The vote does not ratify the entire contract, which must happen before the tribe and the developers can make concrete moves toward developing a casino. But the vote was a victory for the Tribal Trustees and the tribe’s Gaming Authority, which had taken heat in recent weeks from groups within the tribe who raised concerns that the tribe was not getting a fair shake from the contracts drafted by the Gaming Authority and the developer, Gateway Resorts’ co-owner Michael Malik.

“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 Tribal Trustees said in a statement on Friday, following the 101-10 vote in favor of approving portions of the contract.

The vote, perhaps not coincidentally, came just a day after Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivered a glancing blow to the Shinnecock-Gateway proposal to build a casino at Belmont Racetrack in Nassau County. Mr. Cuomo, in an interview with Newsday’s editors, said he thinks the Belmont casino proposal did not “make sense” in light of his own announcement last month that the Genting Group, a Malaysian resort and casino developer, would be spearheading a nearly $4 billion convention center and casino at Aqueduct Race Track in Queens, which is less than 10 miles west of Belmont, with the state’s blessing.

The governor did not specifically say he opposed the Belmont proposal, but his support for the Aqueduct project, and for legislation that could legalize non-Native American gaming operations in the state, might hint at a rocky road for the tribe’s casino plans.

The Tribal Trustees and Gaming Authority signed the new contract with Mr. Malik in June, purportedly without informing the tribe’s rank-and-file members, but federal regulations require that the tribe ratify the contract before it can become binding and meet the criteria laid out by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs that will allow the partnership to begin construction of a casino. The tribe also will need to reach an agreement with New York State lawmakers that would send hefty tax revenues into state coffers.

Tribal leaders have refused to elaborate on exactly what terms of the contract the vote last week approved.

In a December tribal referendum, Nation members rejected the request by the tribe’s leaders to ratify a new contract with Mr. Malik, who has been funding their decade-long push to open a casino in the New York metropolitan area.

The Tribal Trustees and Gateway Casino Resorts had said after the December vote that those results did not signal the end of their partnership but rather that the two sides would iron out details in the contracts so that the membership would be satisfied that the agreements protect the tribe’s interests.

In the run-up to the December vote, a small group of tribe members—including members of the Tribal Council, the Gaming Authority and at least two former Tribal Trustees—began raising doubts about details of the contract. Calling itself the Coalition for Answers and playing on a growing distrust of Mr. Malik within the tribe, the small splinter group called for independent legal advisors to review the contract and for tribe members to have the details explained to them more clearly than the Tribal Trustees had done thus far.

In elections late last month, several members of the Coalition for Answers were elected to seats on the Tribal Council, in an apparent endorsement of their skeptical approach to the relationship with Mr. Malik—though the coalition has not advocated for the tribe to be looking elsewhere for its development.

This week, Tribal Council Chairwoman Dyani Brown, a member of the Coalition for Answers, said she was one of those who voted against approving the terms of the contract approved last week but said the council respects the discretion of the tribe members.

“Despite my personal reservations—I was one of the 10—the consensus has spoken,” Ms. Brown said in an email. “And as Tribal Council chairperson, it is my duty to uphold their wishes. We will move forward with caution.”

There are approximately 1,500 members of the tribe, with about 650 members living on the tribe’s Shinnecock Neck reservation just outside Southampton Village.

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NY is close to legalizing gambling
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on Feb 3, 12 6:13 PM
If they do not put this casino along WFP or Westhampton. I will continue to go to Connecticut. No one wants to go to the New York metropolitan area its a hole. Come on Lance think!
By joe hampton (3461), south hampton on Feb 3, 12 7:05 PM
Forget about gambling. Bring Texas hold 'em and other table games to Long Island. While we are at it, add a hotel and event center, so we can bring the in Ultimate Fighting once NY legalizes Mixed Martial Arts.
By Duckbornandraised (184), Eastport on Feb 4, 12 9:32 PM
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Feb 5, 12 8:48 AM
There is no way the Shinnecocks will get permission from the state for more than one casino, and they can also forget about it being at Belmont park. genting, the operators of the racino at Aqueduct, have too much influence politically to allow any comoetion anywhers near their interests. If Cumo want his convention center in Queens built at gentings cost and ot the state taxpayer, genting will get their exclisvity clause they seek. This Detroit company is filling the Shinnecock's head with illussions ...more
By Walt (292), Southampton on Feb 10, 12 9:44 AM
Forget gambling, build a golf course on the land in Hampton Bays
By smacw (240), New York on Feb 13, 12 3:49 PM
1 member liked this comment
smacw, I think that is an amazing idea. I would do that regardless
By joe hampton (3461), south hampton on Feb 15, 12 9:04 PM
I support the Shinnecock Indians 100% and hope they get to do whatever they want!!!
By MsRainbow (19), Southampton on Feb 16, 12 5:42 PM