New York | Opinion

Opinion: Shinnecock Nation's casino plans remain under cloud

The flag of the Shinnecock Nation. Photo from SN

Recounting the trials and tribulations of the Shinnecock Nation and its attempts to pursue gaming in New York:
A man from California named Ivy Ong reportedly promised to give the tribe $1.5 million to exclusively represent them in the creation of a gambling casino in 2003, and a push accelerated toward the gaining of federal recognition. But local residents did not want a casino on the East End. They wanted it west of this community. It was going to be a big battle. During this time, a Detroit company called Gateway Casino Resorts took over the gaming-development relationship with the tribe, in 2004. And after that, on June 15, 2010, the Bureau of Indian Affairs granted the Shinnecock Tribe official federal recognition.

The tribe had earlier decided that the council of elders should not be appointed by those who came before, but by the vote of all male tribal members. Soon after that, women in the tribe were made eligible to vote. Now, with the money coming in from the developers and the federal government, the tribe created committees to deal with education, health and public relations, and gambling. It was now a democracy. Good things were to come. The Shinnecocks, convinced not to build a casino resort on the East End, were now hoping to be the tribe of choice for a casino perhaps at the Nassau Coliseum, or at a racetrack, or on some vacant land in central Long Island. A number of people in the tribe were now working full-time on matters relating to opening a casino.

It all quickly went downhill. Two years ago, one faction of the tribe accused another faction, from the Gaming Authority, of various wrongdoings. One accusation was that the accused faction was working on buying land—upon which the tribe might one day have a casino—without telling other tribal members.

Those accused denied this was the case. They said it was all politics. Then an FBI investigation was begun, and at that point the company from Detroit reportedly stopped paying money to the tribe.

Meanwhile, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation allowing the creation of gambling casinos in this state that would not need the involvement of Indian tribes. One group now heads up a casino at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens. Others are competing to run a casino in the Catskills. Then, last year, a fire consumed the trailer on the reservation that held all the business records of the tribal Gaming Authority. And now the Gaming Authority has been disbanded.

Get the Story:
Dan Rattiner: A Gamble: Shinnecock Tribe Closes Its Gaming Authority Office (Dan's Papers 10/24)

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