The United States flag is unfurled over center ice at the Nassau Coliseum as the national anthem is sung before the NHL game between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders Friday, Nov. 26, 2010, in Uniondale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

Shinnecock Indians Seek Off-Reservation Gaming Rights in Nassau Coliseum

ICTMN Staff
4/19/11

The Shinnecock Indians of Southampton are reportedly negotiating with Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano to buy 40 acres of the 77-acre Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum at $120 million in a public-private deal for a gaming facility, according to WPIX-TV.

The Nation is close to signing a "memorandum of understanding" with county executives, a tribal source told The New York Post. For off-site gaming rights, the tribe is willing to settle its pending claim on thousands of high-priced acres on Long Island's East End, the Post stated.

WPIX-TV reported the casino could bring in annual revenues of $30 million, boosting the struggling county's economy.

Home to the National Hockey League's New York Islanders, the Nassau Coliseum may face major renovations by Islanders' owner Charles B. Wang. His Lighthouse Project, which would redevelop the area around the sports and entertainment venue, is supported by Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi. WPIX-TV reported that if Wang gets his hands on more county land, the Lighthouse Project may get the green light and kill the Shinnecock's casino plans before they hit paper.

Even a signed memorandum does not guarantee a done deal for the Shinnecocks; it would only initiate the sale of the parts or all of the coliseum to the tribe, stated the Post. To host gaming, the tribe must get Interior approval of land placed into trust, and the tribe would have to negotiate a gaming compact with the state.

Federally recognized as the nation's 565th tribe last fall after 32 years of effort, the Shinnecocks aim to launch a pair of casinos, one in Nassau and the other closer to their reservation in Suffolk County, potentially on a section of Yaphank and Brookhaven Airport in Shirley. The tribe told the Post it would rather not build a casino on its Hamptons reservation. Casinos would bolster the economy of the Shinnecocks, who claim an annual median household income of about $14,000--a life far different from that of their affluent neighbors, noted Ariel Levy in a December 2010 article in The New Yorker.

The Shinnecocks may face opposition from others as it presses for rights to open the two Long Island-based casinos. Southampton residents are fearful that cars, crowds, and garishness will ruin their rustic surroundings, stated Levy in The New Yorker. Officials at nearby Hofstra University told WPIX-TV that college students are engaging in excessive gambling.

The Connecticut Coalition for Gaming Jobs would likely voice its objections. When the Shinnecocks received federal acknowledgment, the coalition argued that a Shinnecock casino in the New York metropolitan area would compete with Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut and adversely affect “their members”–the casinos’ 18,000 employees, the 9,000 other employees who earn a living from providing goods and services to the casinos and Connecticut tax payers. Christopher Cooper, a spokesman for the coalition, issued a statement Oct. 1 saying that it was disappointed in the federal recognition of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, the Associated Press reported. “Today’s federal action is a blow to the Connecticut casino industry and to the long-term economic health of southeastern Connecticut,” Cooper said. “We will review today’s ruling and discuss with our members the appropriate next steps in this process.”

The ambitious tribe is also looking to purchase a new racino at the New York racing track Aqueduct, located near JFK Airport. The Shinnecock-run facility would take bets on horses and video slots. The Post reported the tribe might have engaged in "back-channel discussions" with Genting International, Aqueduct's operator "about a possible joint operation of the Long Island and Queens facilities." However, Genting denied holding talks with the Shinnecocks, the Post stated.

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