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Shinnecock Casino on Long Island – A Step Closer?

May 28, 2009

Albany, NY – Long Island's Shinnecock Indian Nation has reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of the Interior that puts it closer to federal recognition of their tribal status and could bring them nearer their goal of opening a casino on or near their reservation in Southhampton.

With the settlement, the thousand-member tribe is a step closer to ending a 30-year court fight, according to the tribe's communications director, Beverly Deer Jensen.

"It means that, by December, we will know whether or not our petition for federal recognition has been accepted."

The tribe is "guardedly optimistic" it will ultimately be able to open a casino, says Jensen.

"We don't know; we certainly hope so. There are a lot of steps in between opening the door and federal recognition."

The Shinnecock Indian Nation first requested recognition as an Indian nation in 1978, she adds.

"It would bring benefits to the tribe, including assistance for housing, health, education, even some economic development."

The federal government alllows Indian tribes to operate gaming enterprises outside of direct state regulation. The Shinnecocks feel such an enterprise would help ease the imbalance in the economies of the reservation and the ritzy East End communities that surround it.

Opponents of a casino in the Hamptons worry it would increase the traffic that already nears gridlock with summertime visitors to the seaside playground. The Shinnecock Nation is not opposed to opening a casino somewhere else, where it could be larger. If it were built on the 800-acre reservation, it would be limited to slot machines and have no gaming tables such as roulette or craps. Built elsewhere, it could be a full-service casino. Many locations are being considered, says Jensen, as long as it would be within commuting distance for the members of the tribe who would operate it.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY