Friday, December 16, 2011

Distrust and Suspicion of Detroiter Michael Malik Cause Tribe to Reject Casino Syndicator, New Contract


By Michael Wright
In a tribal referendum on Thursday, a majority of the members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation voted against authorizing the tribe’s leaders to sign a new contract with the Detroit casino developer who has been bankrolling their years-long push to open a casino in the New York metropolitan area.

Vote totals from balloting are not yet available, but the casino developer, Gateway Casino Resorts, acknowledged the results and said it will respect the decision of the tribe’s membership.

“While we are of course disappointed in the vote to not move forward at this time with revised business agreements, which followed well over a year of negotiations and months of tribal meetings, we do respect the decision of tribal members to have further review and discussions of the new deal points,” a statement issued by an attorney for Gateway Casino Resorts co-owner Michael Malik on Thursday evening read. “We look forward to concluding that process. We have stood by the Shinnecock Indian Nation for the last eight years, and will continue to do so and support its quest for economic justice.”

The vote went forward on Thursday over the objections of the Tribal Council, which said the three Tribal Trustees were forcing the vote on the rest of the tribe members before they had a chance to adequately examine the contract.

The Trustees announced the vote in a letter to the entire tribe on Monday. They also urged their members to approve the contract so that the casino effort could continue.

The partnership with Mr. Malik, who has spent millions on legal battles and salaries for some two dozen tribe members, has been the subject of much suspicion and distrust among some members of the tribe and the catalyst for open discord at recent tribal meetings. The contract the tribe was being asked to approve was drafted by Gateway representatives and the five members of the tribal Gaming Authority.

There are approximately 1,200 members of the tribe, of which approximately 650 live on the tribe’s Shinnecock Neck reservation just outside Southampton Village.

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