Thursday, December 15, 2011

Shinnecock Vote Down gaming pact with Gateway Casino Resorts, reject longtime investors Michael Malik & Marian Ilitch



12.15.2011

By Mark Harrington

The Shinnecock Indian Nation Thursday voted down a gaming pact with partner Gateway Casino Resorts, a rejection of a longtime backer that has already invested millions of dollars and seven years' work in the project.

"The nation has spoken, by consensus, as it has for thousands of years, and voted today not to finalize gaming agreements with Gateway Casino Resorts," tribal trustees said in a statement Thursday night after the contentious vote.

Of the 274 votes cast, 153 opposed the pact and 121 voted for it. There are some 1,400 Shinnecock members, most of whom do not live on the reservation and were not eligible to vote.

"Gateway needs to understand that they are not going to control our tribe," said Lance Gumbs, a former tribal trustee who voted against the pact.

It's unclear whether the tribe will attempt to negotiate more favorable terms or if the two groups will go their separate ways. A spokeswoman wasn't immediately available. Beverly Jensen, a tribe spokeswoman, declined any further comment.

The Detroit company has financed the tribe's federal recognition efforts in exchange for a casino partnership.

The contracts gave the right to make vital casino decisions on the tribe's behalf to a gaming authority, and stipulate tribal "noninterference" in dealings on the projects.

Only tribal members who are 21 years or older and have lived on the reservation for the past six months were eligible to vote, said Janine Tinsley-Roe, who is on the Shinnecock tribal roll but was prevented from voting because she doesn't live there. Eligible voters were said to number a few hundred members.

Opponents of the contracts feared the tribe would giving away hard-won rights to sovereign immunity and would be locked into a financial agreement they felt was too generous to Gateway. A law firm hired by the tribal council expressed reservations with elements of the non-interference contract.

Much is at stake. The Shinnecock hope to open at least two class III casinos on Long Island, one at Belmont Park, the other in Suffolk, possibly at a former Estee Lauder warehouse in Yaphank .

The agreement with Gateway stipulates the backer will help the tribe acquire the Stony Brook-Southampton campus, and gives the company a 28 percent take of monthly casino revenue.

Recently disclosed gaming documents show conceptual drawings of a casino at Belmont and on Governors Island in Upper New York Bay, though the latter plan is said to be inactive.

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certainly must reads!

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