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Mar 10, 2010 12:45 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

County lawmakers look at possible sites for Shinnecock casinos

Mar 10, 2010 12:45 PM

Suffolk County officials have apparently narrowed down a list of recommended locations in the county for a Shinnecock Indian Nation casino to at least four possible sites, according to Suffolk County Legislator Wayne Horsley of Babylon.

The three locations that have been publicly disclosed are a 250-acre county-owned parcel in Yaphank known as Legacy Village, Riverhead Town-owned property at the Enterprise Park at Calverton (EPCAL), and a privately held parcel of land near Gabreski Airport in Westhampton, according to Mr. Horsley, who is chairman of the legislature’s Economic Development Committee, which oversees a gaming task force charged with making the site recommendations.

Officials have remained mum on the fourth possible site, and have declined to say if more sites would be added to the list.

The tribe would not be required to adhere to any of the suggestions the county makes—they are merely recommendations. The county hopes to entice the tribe to build a casino in the county—though not on the South Fork—in order to reap the benefits a casino would provide.

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman of Montauk, whose district encompasses the Shinnecock Indian Reservation in Southampton, hinted at the possible fourth site under consideration: he said the tribe’s leaders have expressed a desire to operate a casino on a 100-acre parcel in Yaphank near the intersection of William Floyd Parkway and the Long Island Expressway, which Mr. Horsley noted was not county-owned. The parcel is tribal leaders’ “first choice,” according to Mr. Schneiderman.

“Several of them have told me that their top choice right now is this site,” he said.

Beverly Jensen, the communications officer for the Shinnecock Indian Nation, said the tribe’s leaders are primarily concerned with achieving federal recognition, which they hope will be granted sometime this spring, and have not been focusing on a potential site for a casino. However, she also noted that the Nation was not presented with a list of sites by the county committee.

Mr. Horsley, however, argued this week that representatives from both the county and the tribe have been in discussions for the past few months about a possible casino in the county.

He would not confirm that the fourth location would be the property in Yaphank, stating that the task force may come up with other locations. “That’s a good question,” Mr. Horsley said when asked about the parcel. “I’m not at liberty at this point to disclose that.”

He did note, however, that the task force is placing a priority on county-owned locations near major thoroughfares, like the LIE and Sunrise Highway, in order to avoid traffic problems. The Shinnecocks first proposed building a casino in 2003, when they stepped up decades-old efforts to gain federal recognition, a requirement of operating a gaming facility. In December, the federal government granted preliminary recognition to the tribe. Final approval of federal recognition is expected from the Bureau of Indian Affairs sometime in 2010.

According to the 1988 federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, federally recognized tribes are permitted to operate limited gaming facilities on tribal lands. Larger operations, such as table games and slot machines, are allowable only if the tribe can reach a compact with the state government. Compacts usually require that a significant chunk of the additional revenue generated goes to state programs such as education and health care aid. A casino on county-owned land would help to ensure that the county would receive a portion of the revenue.

About two years ago, Shinnecock leaders addressed Suffolk County legislators and pitched the advantages of constructing a casino in the county, which they said would include tens of millions of dollars for local school districts, police and fire departments, and thousands of new jobs.

Constructing a casino at some of the four locations on the county’s short list may pose problems due to other plans for the parcels already being considered, according to Mr. Schneiderman. For example, he noted that Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter recently noted that there is a restriction against gambling in place at the EPCAL property.

Mr. Schneiderman also noted that Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy has proposed a huge undertaking at Legacy Village. The development calls for about 1,000 town homes and condominiums, a 5,500-seat indoor arena, a 5,000-seat outdoor sports stadium, a 95-acre industrial park, and 50 acres of public soccer and football fields.

Also, there are already plans in the works to develop the Westhampton parcel, he noted. Rechler Equity Partners has proposed building the Hampton Business and Technology Park, a 485,000-square-foot office park and movie studio at the airport.

“I don’t know why they’re even looking at that, other than maybe they want to break their agreement with Rechler,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

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Take about transparency in government! This whole process seems to be entirely done behind closed doors. Last time I checked Gabreski was in Westhampton, which is considered by most to be part of the South Fork.
The Technology Park is a good idea for Gabreski as this will bring in better paying jobs - I doubt a gaming casino will. Also, the Rechler project was on County owned land, not private. So are they talking airport or Pine Barren property in private hands? There is one well known local ...more
By diogenes (57), westhampton on Mar 16, 10 11:03 AM
Calverton makes the most sense being near the expressway and perhaps a reverse flow of ferry traffick would bring some New England dollars down here for a change.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Mar 17, 10 6:51 AM
Calverton makes the most sense being near the expressway and perhaps a reverse flow of ferry traffick would bring some New England dollars down here for a change. The tax revenue should be used to reduce our school portion of our tax bills in the county first before kicking it back up to the state.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Mar 17, 10 6:52 AM