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Shinnecock hope for Indian Casino on Long Island

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May 27, 2009

LONG ISLAND - The Shinnecock Indian Nation, who would like to build the first casino in downstate New York, must first gain tribal recognition from the United States government. A major hurdle was cleared this week towards that goal when a settlement was made with the Interior Department that requires a preliminary ruling on its tribal status by December 15th.

After 30 years of court fights, the Shinnecocks believe they are close to federal recognition, New York state formally recognized the tribe many years ago, and a federal judge ruled in 2005 that they are a sovereign tribe.

If granted federal recognition, the Shinnecocks would immediately have the right to build a "Class II" casino on their reservation. Class II gaming is video slot machines, but no table games.

The settlement was filed Tuesday in United States District Court in Central Islip, NY. The tribe applied for federal recognition in 1978, but never received a reply. So in 2006, it sued the U.S. Department of Interior for failing to process its request in a reasonable amount of time.

As part of the settlement, the Interior Department will hold a public meeting on June 3 for the Shinnecocks to present and discuss their petition with officials from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a an agency within the Interior Department

"It's a good deal for all sides," said Nedra Darling, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. "We've all agreed to these time frames. On our side, we want to get the decision done. Agreeing to the time frame will move towards that."

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