Officials from the Shinnecock Indian Nation announced Wednesday plans to build a casino on its sovereign land in the Hamptons region of Long Island. However, Shinnecock leaders said they may not stop with just one gaming venue.
The press conference detailing the nation’s plans comes less than a year after the Shinnecock received approval from the National Indian Gaming Commission to operate a casino on its reservation. The 3.4-square-mile reservation is located just west of Southampton.
Tri-State Partners will help the nation build the 76,000-square-foot facility and operate the casino, to be called Shinnecock Casino Hamptons. Tribal officials expect construction to start this summer.
Tri-State Partners and Managing Member Jack Morris said in a Shinnecock press release that the casino will be a property residents across the island will enjoy, as well as a way for the tribal community to enjoy the same economic development opportunities as other sovereign nations have experienced across the US.
“Over the past several years we have witnessed the suffering of the Shinnecock Nation and also seen the opportunity to lift their people from the poverty they currently live in,” Managing Member Jack Morris said.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida is also offering technical and financial support, Shinnecock Nation Chairman Bryan Polite said during the press conference.
This isn’t Shinnecock’s first effort to land a casino. The nation has only been formally recognized for about a decade, after a 30-year fight to get federal approval.
A private investigator’s hacking scheme undermined a previous casino effort.
Long-time Struggle for the Shinnecock
The Shinnecock reservation is about 80 miles from midtown Manhattan and sits amid some of the most exclusive real estate in the world, as parts of the Hamptons serve as homes and retreats for affluent New Yorkers.
However, as Morris noted, the Shinnecock have faced financial struggles. In the release, the nation’s Council of Trustees noted past efforts to build a casino elsewhere.
“Our ancestral lands were taken from us many years ago, and New York State has refused to meet with us regarding stolen land claims that were filed over many decades,” the Council stated. “We have tried to resolve these issues over the last decade by proposing to find more suitable locations on Long Island, but were rebuffed. We have waited long enough and have decided to proceed here on our Territory.”
Polite said the proposed casino will be a Class II gaming facility. The federal government allows tribes to offer that level of gaming, which includes slot machines using computerized bingo draws to determine winners, and non-banked card games, without the need for a gaming compact with the state.
“The Shinnecock Indian nation has an inherent right to develop a Class III facility on our sovereign territory, which would take a compact with the state. But currently we are laser-focused on this current project for the Class II facility,” he added.
More Casinos on the Way?
The press release stated the Council wants this to be “the first of a number of casinos” for the Shinnecock.
New York currently has three casinos in the downstate region. The closest to the Shinnecock is Jake’s 58 in Islandia, roughly 45 miles west on Long Island. Resorts World has a large casino in Queens, and MGM Resorts International operates one in Yonkers, just north of Manhattan and the Bronx. Those three facilities offer slots and electronic table games.
The state has set aside three resort casino licenses for properties to offer Class III gaming, including banked table games. However, for now, the earliest those can be awarded is 2023. But as the state faces massive budget deficits because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s some effort underway to get those awarded sooner.
Beating the state is a priority, Polite said.
“I would just add that we were first in line back before the (state) constitution was even amended to allow for commercial gaming,” he said. “So, for us, it’s important to get this up and running before the market is flooded for sure.”
The Shinnecock, along with its partners, could also try to get involved for one of the Class III commercial licenses as well.
“The tribe is looking at many different options, not just with Indian gaming, but also with other opportunities to build out world-class facilities,” Polite said. “We’re not looking at anywhere outside of the New York region right now. But again, the nation has always interested in furthering our economic development.”
Those “world-class facilities” could include restaurants and other attractions along the waterfront, Morris and the Council said in the release.
No Hard Rock Hamptons
While the Seminoles own Hard Rock International, which owns and operates casinos across the US, the Shinnecock casino will not carry that brand, Polite said at the press conference.
Hard Rock International issued its own statement after the presser saying it “has not and will not have any connection” to the Shinnecock project.
“Furthermore, Jack Morris and Tri-State Partners are a minority partner in the Hard Rock Atlantic City project, and he had no involvement in the establishment of Hard Rock Hotels and Casinos,” the company said.
In a statement, the Seminoles said it supported the Shinnecock’s efforts in several ways.
“Gaming has been a vital tool for economic development and self-determination for Indian tribes across the country, including the Seminole Tribe,” the Florida-based nation said. “For over a year, the Seminole Tribe has worked with the Shinnecock Nation and Tri-State to obtain the necessary approvals from the Department of Interior and the NIGC. In addition, the Tribe has provided financial support and technical assistance to the Nation, including financial models and designs.”
This is not the first time the Seminoles have lent their expertise to another tribe. Two years ago, the Seminoles worked with the Enterprise Rancheria Tribe to open Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain.
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