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Shinnecock Tribe votes down gaming pact

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

The Shinnecock Indian Nation Thursday voted down a gaming pact with partner Gateway Casino Resorts, a rejection of a longtime partner that is certain to slow an already delay-plagued plan to open casinos on Long Island.

Opponents of the pact saw the vote as a critical assertion of the tribe's voice and central role in the negotiations, but Gateway portrayed it as part of the process requiring "further review and discussions of the new deal points."

A tribal statement released after the contentious vote said, "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."

Of the 274 votes cast, 153 opposed the pact and 121 voted for it. There are about 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.

Gateway, which has invested millions of dollars in the project, expressed disappointment but said: "We do respect the decision of tribal members to have further review and discussions of the new deal points. We look forward to concluding that process.

"We have stood by the Shinnecock Indian Nation for the last eight years, and will continue to do so and support its quest for economic justice."

It's unclear whether the tribe will attempt to negotiate more favorable terms or if the two groups will go their separate ways. 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 "non-interference" in dealings on the projects.

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.

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