Sources: Nassau, Shinnecocks bet on casino

A file photo of a dealer placing chips

A file photo of a dealer placing chips at a roulette table at a casino in London. (Jan. 22, 2008) (Credit: Bloomberg)

A casino deal between the Shinnecock Nation and Nassau County could generate between $2 million and $3 million an acre and pump additional millions into county coffers through an annual revenue-sharing arrangement, according to a source with knowledge of the talks between the tribe and the county.

The Shinnecocks and the county are close to signing a memorandum of understanding that could lead to the tribe buying and developing approximately 40 acres of county-owned land for a casino adjacent to the Coliseum, people briefed on the plan said. At $2 million to $3 million an acre, a sale of 40 acres could net the county upward of $120 million, and also produce annual revenue to the county of up to $30 million, the source said.

The plan would give the tribe its first casino location to work toward and the county a desperately needed revenue source. The project, along with a hotel and convention center complex, could produce thousands of construction as well as permanent jobs once the project was completed.

Hofstra University officials, who have opposed any casino on the county land, declined to comment. Local neighborhood and civic groups near the Coliseum site have been vocal in their opposition to any large scale development on the land.

"I don't want to see a casino there," said Egbert Boucarut, a member of the Cooper Court Homeowners Association, a development about a half-mile away.

The proposal for a tribal casino and a possible hotel/conference center would not be directly incorporated into bigger plans to rebuild the Coliseum or to Islanders owner Charles Wang's Lighthouse project, the sources said. But people familiar with the casino plan said it would likely move forward with the blessing of the Islanders organization, and would serve as an engine to help spur a subsequent Coliseum redevelopment.

A source familiar with the county's plans confirmed that a deal was in the works but added it was "not signed yet."

Several layers of federal and state approvals -- along with reviews that could take years -- would be required for any deal to move forward, the people briefed on the plan said.

Brian Nevin, a spokesman for County Executive Edward Mangano, declined to comment on the possibility of a memorandum of understanding, land sale or revenue-sharing agreement. But he noted, "To create jobs and jump-start our local economy, the county executive will move forward with a development plan this year."

Tribal spokeswoman Beverly Jensen declined to comment on talks with the county or any other potential site owner, noting that the tribe continues to consider parcels around Long Island.

Mangano made a reference to a potential deal with the tribe during his state of the county speech earlier this month.

Among options for eventually rebuilding the Coliseum, he said, is a "public-private inter-nation partnership with the Shinnecock Nation to develop a gaming casino on the land that surrounds the Nassau Coliseum. This project would include a hotel and conference center, a newly refurbished Nassau Coliseum and restaurants and stores."

One source briefed on the plan said the idea of a tribal casino encompassing Wang's Lighthouse and the Coliseum was never really viable because it would have required sale of all the county-owned land for both projects to the Shinnecock Nation. Islanders officials did not return calls seeking comment.

In the past, Wang has committed to keeping the team at the Coliseum through 2015, when the team's lease expires.

"It will never happen without the Islanders' support," said one person close to the casino talks, who noted that Wang owns the adjacent Uniondale Marriott, plus an additional nearby eight acres.

The tribe is in the process of updating its contract with Gateway Casino Resorts, the Detroit-based group that has funded the Shinnecock's federal recognition and casino efforts. Tribal leaders met with Gateway in Detroit last week in an attempt to finalize a deal, sources said, but it's still not finalized.

With Randi Marshall

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Vote

Is the area around Nassau Coliseum suitable for a casino?

Yes. No.

advertisement | advertise on newsday