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Apr 23, 2008 9:37 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tribe member enters gaming business

Apr 23, 2008 9:37 AM

A member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation recently placed an order for 25,000 electronic gaming cards—electronic versions of scratch-off tickets that cannot be legally sold outside Indian reservations—that he intends to market starting this summer.

The cards were purchased by Jonathan Smith, the president of Electronic Gaming Zone, an online arcade entertainment site, according to a release circulated late last month by Electronic Game Card Inc., the manufacturer of the new technology that is aimed at the Indian gaming market.

Mr. Smith explained that despite his tribal membership, he does not intend to sell the cards on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation. Mr. Smith said the order is part of his new business venture of selling and promoting the electronic instant win scratch-off cards to existing Indian casinos throughout the country.

Electronic Game Card initially named the Shinnecock tribe—not a single businessman—as the purchaser of the cards and noted that the order was “part of the Shinnecocks’ ongoing activities in the gaming market.”

Shortly afterward, the Shinnecock Indian Nation’s Board of Trustees denied any connection or approval of the purchase. The trustees also said the purchase did not lay the groundwork for any future gaming on the reservation, nor was it related to the tribe’s bid for federal recognition. If and when they are recognized by the federal government, the Shinnecocks could advance their plans to open a casino on the South Fork.

In a statement, the Shinnecock Nation Board of Trustees said Mr. Smith’s actions are in no part authorized by the tribe, nor do his comments “reflect the opinions, intentions or plans of the Nation.”

The press release from the London- and New York-based gaming company was later corrected to reflect that the order is from a tribal member, not the tribe. It still points out that Mr. Smith operates out of Shinnecock Indian territory, gives background on the tribe’s history and population, and quotes him explaining the $20 cards as part of growth plans “as we introduce exciting new games this summer.”

Mr. Smith refuted the suggestion that Electronic Game Card could be using the Shinnecock name to attract investors and new business, instead explaining that the initial release was a “complete misunderstanding.” He said the correction included the information on the Shinnecocks and his membership to enhance his credibility when selling the cards to other tribes across the country.

“It can be very confusing,” Mr. Smith said, noting that EGC is based in England and understands little about Indian tribes or that his tribal membership does not immediately make his business affiliated with the Shinnecocks.

“Some people still don’t know we live in houses,” he said.

Thomas Dodd, managing director for EUMBC Ltd., an EGC affiliate company, said Mr. Smith’s cards contain a random matrix that can be programmed for players to win prizes, such as merchandise or cash, depending on the intended use. They are designed for lotteries, promotional drives and non-profit fund-raisers, Mr. Dodd said, adding that Mr. Smith’s order was only mid-sized. He noted that Mr. Smith’s cards would be programmed this month, after he determined their intended use, and they would be delivered 90 days after that.

Mr. Smith said he has been contacted by a number of Indian casinos interested in using the cards for games and promotions, where the casino’s logo would be placed on the card, along with an advertised prize, to draw people to gaming facilities. He said charities could also be potential customers for the cards.

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