|By John Moreno Gonzales, Newsday,
Melville, N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Business News
Dec. 15, 2006 - Though it could be years before the first brick is laid, attorneys for the Town of Southampton yesterday said the Shinnecock Indian Nation would build a casino the size of the Foxwoods Resort in Hampton Bays if it is allowed to do so.
In the trial in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, in which the town is seeking to prevent the Shinnecocks from building on the 79-acre Westwoods parcel, environmental analysts based their findings on a 4.7-million-square-foot facility mirroring Foxwoods, which dominates the Norwich, Conn. landscape and boasts of being the largest casino in the world.
"The construction would not be limited by law" said Michael Cohen, a Jericho attorney representing the town, referring to the sovereign nation status the Shinnecocks seek, which would exempt them from zoning laws. "They are being financed by Ilitch," he added, referring to the Detroit-based casino developers who are paying the Shinnecock's legal fees.
Cohen and attorneys for New York State, which is also seeking to block the Shinnecocks' casino effort, said those two factors made the Foxwoods scenario probable because the Shinnecocks would be able to draw upon massive New York City and regional customer bases to attract some 40,000 visitors a day.
But Tom Shields, a spokesman for Gateway Funding Associates, a company formed by casino investors Marian Ilitch and Michael Malik to fund the Shinnecocks, said the town was seeking to exaggerate traffic and environmental nightmares.
"There's only one Foxwoods and there's no definite plans at this point in time," Shields said of blueprints for a Shinnecock casino.
Tribal chairman Lance Gumbs noted that the tribe has submitted court papers only for a 65,000-square-foot facility, matching the largest house in the town.
"They can't work on that assumption," Gumbs said of the town's theory that a Shinnecock casino would rival Foxwoods. Still, Gumbs declined to comment on how large any casino would be, and acknowledged that the Shinnecocks did receive proposals for a major resort that included a spa and hotel.
Even if the Shinnecocks are able to win the case being heard in the nonjury trial before U.S. District Judge Joseph P. Bianco, they will have at least two more hurdles before building a casino, one of which could limit its size.
The tribe would need federal recognition by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and would need to enter into a gaming compact with New York State. The latter could regulate how large a casino would be.
Copyright (c) 2006, Newsday, Melville, N.Y.
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