Tribal gaming

NY: Shinnecocks vying for downstate casino license; move forward with Southampton project

Rendering for Shinnecock Casino Hamptons in New York.
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The Shinnecock Indian Nation is seeking approval to build a Las Vegas-style gaming facility off of its Southampton territory. The tribe was among 31 entities that responded last month to a request for information from the New York State Gaming Commission to gauge interest in contracts for three Class III gaming venues for the downstate region, reports Long Island Press.

The new development comes nearly a year after tribe leaders announced a bid to build a casino on tribal territory in Southampton. However, that gaming facility will be a Class II one, thus limited to slot machines and electronic gaming tables.

“The Shinnecock submitted information on why it should be considered for a commercial, Class III gaming license in the New York Metropolitan area,” Randy King, Shinnecock tribal vice-chair, told Dan’s Papers. “We will still continue our push for a modest facility on the East End of Long Island on our territory in Southampton. But also we’re seeking one of these licenses or the ability to negotiate a Class III tribal facility somewhere on Long Island.”

The three downstate region licenses are among seven for casinos across the state that New Yorkers approved in a 2013 referendum, with 57% of support. The proposal, largely supported by Long Island voters, amended the state constitution to approve non-tribal casinos for the first time.

Many major casino operators responded to the state’s request for information, including MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts, Bally’s Corporation, Rush Street Gaming, Las Vegas Sands, Genting and Hard Rock International, reported Times Union in December. MGM and Genting are seeking to convert their existing slots parlors into full-fledged casinos.

But even if plans to secure a downstate license were to fail, the Shinnecock are now confident that the casino on tribal land will finally move forward. The tribe first cleared five acres of land to build a casino in 2003, an effort that stalled in the meantime. But now, almost two decades later, with a National Indian Gaming Commission approval in hand, only environmental approvals are left to be cleared.

“We feel that we have all our ducks in a row this time,” Shinnecock Council Chairman Bryan Polite said last year, according to Dan’s Papers. The Shinnecock Casino Hamptons is expected to significantly improve the tribe’s finances, and the tribe is working with private equity firm Tri-State Capital Partners on the plan.

The venue was previously announced as a 76,000-square-foot casino. While construction was initially announced to start mid-2021 and to be completed in 12-14 months, the tribe now expects to start this year. However, supply chain issues could possibly slow the timeline for construction, now projected to take 18 to 25 months to complete.

To be located just off Montauk Highway, the casino will be wholly-owned by the Shinnecock Nation, while the partnership with Tri-State Partners is set to provide the tribe with “outside funding and strategic planning.” A previous plan, announced in September 2020, called for a “world-class entertainment destination,” but was subsequently scaled down to a stand-alone casino.

Many Hamptons residents have shown opposition to the casino, uniting under the Hamptons Neighborhood Group, The New York Times reported in April last year. The group called the casino out of character with its residential surroundings and said it would lead to increased traffic, as well as possible noise problems, disturbances and crime.

Southampton town supervisor, Jay Schneiderman, said that while he respected the tribe's rights, he couldn’t think “of a worse location” to build a casino. The Shinnecock Nation has defended its proposal, claiming it could be a golden opportunity to lift its people from poverty.