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Jul 20, 2010 7:15 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Connecticut casino employees file 11th-hour challenge to Shinnecock recognition

Jul 20, 2010 7:15 PM

Leaders of the Shinnecock Indian Nation reacted angrily this week to word that an upstart organization claiming to represent more than 18,000 Connecticut casino employees has filed a legal objection to the Shinnecocks’ recent official recognition by the federal government—seen as a doorway to the tribe opening a casino on Long Island or in the New York City region.

Shinnecock Tribal Trustee Lance Gumbs said he has been told by the tribe’s attorneys that the objection suspends the tribe’s federal recognition status until the matter is resolved by the Interior Board of Indian Appeals. The move came just four days before the last window of opportunity for any objections to the tribe’s official federal recognition, granted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs last month, was to close.

“It’s appalling and it’s a slap in the face,” Mr. Gumbs said Thursday. “This is a group trying to protect Connecticut’s interests—it has nothing to do with our status as a tribe. It’s a slap in the face to everybody in New York.”

Tribal Trustees Chairman Randy King was equally outraged. “It’s unbelievable for them to come in ... at the 11th hour like this,” he said. “It’s an affront to our tribe’s heritage and everything we’ve done. Why didn’t they step up in December if they thought our application was so wrong?”

The Shinnecocks were given preliminary approval of their 32-year-old federal recognition application in December, after which there was a 60-day comment period for objections or appeals to be filed. Just one appeal was filed, a request by some members of the splintered Montaukett tribe to be included in the Shinnecock application, which was set aside by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

A New Jersey man, claiming to represent members of the Montauketts, also filed an objection to the Shinnecock federal recognition approval last week, though it is not clear what the grounds for his objection are or whether it would even be accepted by the federal bureau since other members of the Montauketts apparently penned a correspondence to the Bureau of Indian Affairs saying the man, Robert Stevenson, was not a member of the tribe.

The objection by the Connecticut group will be reviewed by a federal judge and, if granted, could mean a protracted court battle over the points of contention raised by the group.

The group, which calls itself the Connecticut Coalition for Gaming Jobs, said the tribe’s business relationship with Gateway Casino Resorts—the Detroit casino development company that has spent millions of dollars on the tribe and its nine-year marathon of legal battles in exchange for a cut of future casino profits—compromises the independence of the tribe and should make them ineligible for federal recognition. The appeal filed by the tribe says that a Shinnecock-run casino near New York City would be devastating to the lives of thousands of Connecticut gaming employees.

“It’s a totally unfounded claim,” said Mark Tilden, a Colorado attorney who worked on the Shinnecocks’ federal recognition application in recent years. “This is a speed bump in the road for the nation. We will respond to these interlopers quickly and vigorously.”

This week, members of the Shinnecock tribe, through the online social networking site Facebook.com, called for a boycott of the Connecticut casinos by New Yorkers.

Reports in the Norwich Bulletin, a newspaper in Norwich, Connecticut, said the gaming coalition’s spokesperson has said the group is also considering challenges to casino bids by tribes in Massachusetts and Rhode Island as well.

U.S. Representative Tim Bishop of Southampton blasted
the attacks on the Shinnecocks as a business concern having nothing to do with the grounds for the tribe’s deserving federal recognition. He said he would put the weight of his office on the side of the tribe in its fight
to finalize their federal recognition.

“The recognition process is based on strict criteria with regard to the tribe’s indigenous and historic link to Long Island,” Mr. Bishop said. “The recognition process is separate and distinct from a discussion of gaming. I support the tribe’s request for recognition and will share that support in a letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.”

On June 19, the Bureau of Indian Affairs issued its final determination, granting the Shinnecocks federal recognition, opening the door for the tribe to a host of federal aid programs—and also to the world of casino gambling. With its federal recognition looming, the tribe had begun holding meetings with local governments, developers and property owners about potential sites for a future Shinnecock casino.

The tribe is scheduled to meet with a task force formed by the Suffolk County Legislature on Thursday to explore possible sites for a Shinnecock casino, which could bring a tax windfall for the county and whatever municipality hosts the development. Mr. Gumbs said that meeting might be postponed because of the appeal.

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Editor, this article has a very similar (identical?) headline to the former one. Any chance of modifying it, and posting cross-links at both locations?

Thank you.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 21, 10 3:15 PM
Maybe they came to the startling realization across the Sound in CT, regarding just how big the "margin call" is when it comes to all the monies they have financed. Do they really have serious reason to believe a potential casino will destroy them? How deep are they in to the "loan sharks"?

Can't pay huge loans, when business is divided on two distinctly different fronts, now can you?

There's way more to this than them wanting the "monopoly" on tribal casino gaming. Can't wait ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 21, 10 10:51 PM