Governor Andrew Cuomo is looking to create more casinos in the state of New York — seven to be exact.
The Shinnecock Indian Nation in Southampton is looking to create a casino for the purposes of promoting economic stability and self-sufficiency.
Seems like a match made in heaven, no?
Though the New York State Legislature recently endorsed a constitutional amendment to allow seven private casinos in the state (at the governor’s behest), Cuomo has said it’s “unrealistic” for the state to talk gaming with the Shinnecocks at this point.
The logic is that a public referendum must come first to allow the new casinos in the state. But that’s something which won’t happen for at least a year or more.
The Shinnecocks argue, why wait?
They’ve got a point. The Shinnecock Indian Nation, which received its federal recognition in 2010, is already allowed to take up gaming under the National Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. They don’t need a referendum. Just approval from the state.
Meanwhile the state, which is looking to expand gaming by non-Indian entities (hence the referendum), has already been courted by major gambling companies, including some from overseas.
By having Albany’s ear, it’s conceivable that these big private firms could get their foot in the door long before the Shinnecocks have even pulled in the driveway. While the Shinnecock, who own property in Hampton Bays and Southampton, have been amenable to pursing a gaming facility much further west — in western Suffolk, Nassau County or even New York City — the tribe could come up a loser if these big corporations get their way first and place exclusionary zones around any new potential casinos on Long Island.
But this week, the Shinnecocks got some new ammo in their fight for a casino when a federal appeals court struck down a 2008 federal court decision which barred the nation from building a casino on Westwoods, their tribal lands in Hampton Bays. The ruling, the decision argued, belongs in state courts, not federal.
Even in light of the decision, the Shinnecocks are, in fact, hardly likely to go ahead now and pursue a casino on their Westwoods property. Local opposition to such an idea has been vociferous and the Shinnecocks understand the sentiment. But this ruling, compounded with the nation’s status as a federally recognized tribe, certainly does give the Shinnecocks a serious stack of chips in the game with the state.
Which is why after the ruling was handed down, the Shinnecocks immediately asked for a meeting with Governor Cuomo on gaming.
That meeting has yet to happen.
As New York State looks down the road by entertaining the notion of new casinos potentially created by foreign concerns, it’s time for Governor Cuomo to take notice of who’s in our own backyard and look out for the interests of those pursuing gaming that’s already legal.
It’s time for Governor Cuomo to sit down to discuss this issue with the Shinnecocks. We think they’ve waited long enough already.