Shinnecocks Ink New Casino Partnership

Shinnecock Nation Tribal Chairman Bryan Polite. EXPRESS FILE

The Shinnecock Nation this week announced it has inked a new casino development contract with the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino chain, which is owned by the Florida-based Seminole Tribe.

Tribal leaders said that the new partnership returns the tribe to the pursuit of “a world class entertainment venue” somewhere on Long Island.

The partnership connects the tribe with the Seminoles and Tri-State Partners, the development company that is already partners with the Seminoles in the Atlantic City Hard Rock.

Tribal Chairman Bryan Polite said this week that the casino landscape in New York has changed drastically since the tribe’s last organized effort at gaming fell apart amid a firestorm of internal conflict and accusations of misdeeds by some tribe members and its development partners.

“First of all, we are dealing with another tribe, which is a huge difference,” the tribal chairman said. “And they are one of the most successful tribes, if not the most successful tribe, in the country. The Hard Rock brand is internationally known. They are one of the biggest gaming operators in the world.”

The Seminoles’s company own nearly three dozen Hard Rock hotels and casinos around the world, with another 11 under construction, in addition to more than 160 Hard Rock Cafe restaurants.

Mr. Polite said that the new partnership will be looking at possible development sites across the region, including in Nassau County — but also locally. He said that no potential locations for a future casino are off the table, but that the tribe-owned Westwoods property in Hampton Bays is not being considered as an option currently. He said it’s possible the tribe could look to someday build a “small hotel” on part of the 77-acre property, but that otherwise the intentions are to keep it as “pristine as possible.”

The tribe’s 800-acre Shinnecock Neck territory is, however, a consideration for a possible development, he said.

When the tribe was exploring a casino development prior to 2011, it had been in talks about a number of large properties around the island, including the former Grumman land in Calverton, Colabro Airport in Brookhaven, Belmont Racetrack and even the Nassau Coliseum.

The tribe, which also announced this week that the federal National Indian Gaming Commission had cleared the tribe to conduct gaming, could begin operating a “Class II” casino, which allows for electronic gaming machines and other small-stakes games, but would still have to reach an agreement with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office to open Class III facility with table games, high stakes betting and slot machines.

“It’s all very complex,” Mr. Polite said. “We are trying to do this in a methodical way and, given those complexities, take our time at it. Hopefully, within the next year, we’ll get to the next phase.”

The tribal chairman also said that the tribe has learned from the tumult of its dealings with Gateway, and will be proceeding with an emphasis on careful vetting of everything.

“The way forward for us is to have everything more transparent,” he said. “We’re taking lessons from the past.”