A Shinnecock tribal leader said Friday he expects a preliminary decision on federal recognition of the tribe by Nov. 10, a ruling that if favorable, could open the door to Long Island's first American Indian casino.
Lance Gumbs, a tribal trustee, said he also is optimistic that a final ruling could be done by May or July of 2010.
Nedra Darling, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, confirmed the November date for a preliminary decision, but could not say when a final ruling would be made. She also said she could not assess the tribe's chances for approval.
Gumbs disclosed his timetable at the first meeting of Suffolk County's new Gaming Task Force, which is aimed at helping the tribe find a casino site. The tribe and the county both are eager for the revenue and economic development it could bring.
The Shinnecocks have said they want to build a casino-hotel-entertainment complex, which would be akin to the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, and are looking for a site off the reservation to avoid problems like traffic.
Gumbs said he has been in talks with the Interior Department to settle the tribe's five lawsuits that would end 31 years of delays and regain the federal recognition the tribe had until the 1950s.
"Once we have that final determination, then the door is open and we intend to go through it at 100 mph," Gumbs said.
He said he was optimistic about the outcome because of recent discussions with new White House staff, the presidential transition team and new interior officials since January.
Still, the odds have not favored the more than 332 tribes that have sought recognition since 1978. Bureau officials said 66 won the status, 28 were denied and the rest are pending.
Ray Donnelly, chairman of the task force, said the group will develop a profile by fall of what any potential casino site would need. He said a request for proposals would be asked of developers and property owners who have sites to offer.