Washington indicated earlier in the week that it is prepared to grant official recognition to the Shinnecock Indian Nation, a tribe that occupies 800 acres in Southampton, not far from the enclave known as The Hamptons, Long Island's wealthiest communities and expansive celebrity-owned estates. Formal approval should take at least six months, after which the tribe will have the right to set up a Class II casino.
However, in view of the possibility of setting up Las Vegas style gambling, after reaching an agreement with state and federal authorities, the Shinnecock would probably opt to locate their casino elsewhere on Long Island, possibly at the Aqueduct or Belmont racetracks.
The Shinnecocks' quest to reclaim their status as a tribe dates back to the late 1940s, beginning long before gaming became prevalent on Indian lands. The battle has been a long and arduous struggle to regain what was, in many estimates, wrongfully denied the tribe as witnessed by court proceedings over the last 30 years. The Nation contends the tribe was wrongfully removed from the federal register in the 1940s and has been subsequently denied its rights as a tribe in actions taken by the federal government ever since.
The legal battle for tribal status revoked in the 1940s intensified in 1976 when the Federal Gaming Regulatory Act was adopted and the law made it possible for tribes to establish casinos on their lands. The success of Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun, well-known Indian gaming facilities in nearby Connecticut, provided the economic stimulus and encouragement for other tribes in the Northeast to follow suit.
Many residents of eastern Long Island depart daily on a high speed passenger ferry leaving Orient Point headed for the New London coastline, a short 40 minute cruise that takes them to a waiting bus that transports gamblers and their Long Island dollars to Connecticut. The Shinnecocks would like to keep this money circulating in the Long Island economy by ultimately establishing a facility in the area, and whether it is in The Hamptons, Belmont Park or Aqueduct racetracks, New Yorkers are getting ready to support their local gambling saloon! (S-12.17.09)
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