Shinnecock Indian Nation announces plan for casino on Southampton reservation

Suffolk County in New York State could soon see its second Class II gaming facility after the Shinnecock Indian Nation announced Wednesday its plan to build and operate a casino on its 900-acre Southampton reservation along Shinnecock Bay on Long Island.

More than a decade in the making, construction on the 76,000 square foot Shinnecock Casino Hamptons (artist rendering, below-right) will reportedly start this summer and include 1,000 video lottery terminals (VLTs), 30 Texas Hold’em table games, a bingo parlor, dining establishments, and entertainment venues, and is expected to be completed within 14 months, according to The East Hampton Star.

Sovereign land:

In a statement in Wednesday’s formal announcement, the Shinnecock Council of Trustees said…

“As we have seen with members of Tribal Nations, casinos provide an opportunity to lift our members from adversity.

“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. 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.”

Joint venture:

After last summer receiving the green light from the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) for a Class II casino, the Nation announced that it had formed a partnership with Seminole Hard Rock Entertainment and New York City investment firm Tri-State Partners in an effort to “reignite its decade-long plans to enter casino gaming in New York,” as reported by Newsday.

The partners said the joint venture has worked together for more than a year, with the Seminole Tribe and Tri-State helping the Shinnecock Nation secure the required approvals from the NIGC and the Department of Interior. And that the Seminole has “provided financial support and technical assistance to the Nation, including financial models and designs.”

According to Shinnecock Nation Chairman Bryan Polite, the tribe is waiting for the Gaming Commission’s environmental impact study (EIS) to be approved so it can begin construction. Polite said the EIS would be completed in 12 to 14 months after an expected summer start.

Local opposition:

Meanwhile, another source reports that Southhampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman is calling for an environmental review of noise, traffic, air, and water. In the live report, the town official said he’s “never supported gambling,” and I don’t think it’s the right use and particularly at this property.”

“It would be hard to find a worse property to locate a gaming facility,” added Schneiderman.

While according to Polite, the tribe and its partners are already conducting surveys, traffic studies, and other measures to deal with increased traffic, he said he expects some local residents may have “qualms” with the casino. He reasoned the tribe would “work in a way that’s not just beneficial for Shinnecock but also the outside community,” according to the news agency.

Class II gaming:

Shinnecock Indian Nation announces plan for casino on Southampton reservation

While “electronic or electromechanical facsimiles of any game of chance or slot machine of any kind” are prohibited, Class II casinos can offer bingo and games like it, as well as non-banking card games, such as Texas Hold’em, where players play against each other and do not wager against the house.

According to the New York State Gaming Commission, this class of gaming falls under “tribal jurisdiction, subject to the provisions of [the] Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and oversight of the National Indian Gaming Commission. States are not permitted to regulate any Class II gaming activity.” Meaning, the casino will not require a compact of any type of formal agreement with the state.

The tribal council said its research has shown that a Class II casino, which would be the second such facility after the May 2017 opening of Jake’s 58 Hotel & Casino in Islandia, “will be a boost for tourism here on the eastern end of Long Island. And while the summer months will be the busiest months of the year for us, working with Tri State we will attract visitors during the rest of the year as well,” as reported by The Easthampton Star.

Jack Morris, principal of Tri-State Partners, said that while phase one of the project will comprise Class II gaming exclusively, “there could be other phases of the project” in the future that include hotel rooms and as well as other economic drivers, according to Newsday.