Thursday, June 11, 2009

Belmont, plus the Shinnecock, equals 'racino?'

I'm not sure how I missed this a week ago, but there's some talk -- preliminary, might never happen, but it's left lips and reached ears -- of a Native American casino at New York's Belmont Park.

The Associated Press reported last week that the Shinnecock Indians of New York might gain tribal recognition from the Department of the Interior, something the band has sought since 1978. That would give the tribe the right to establish a casino.

Earlier efforts by the Shinnecock -- who live surrounded by the New York metro area -- for a casino in Southampton, caused conniptions among the tribe's cosmopolitan neighbors. But perhaps a casino at Belmont Park, where folks already gamble on racing, could be beneficial both to the Shinnecock and to the bottom line for Belmont. A Belmont casino in the New York metro area would save Big Apple residents from a trip to Atlantic City or to other Indian-run casinos in Connecticut, in each case about 90 minutes away.

Belmont Park is actually about 70 miles from the Shinnecock community in Southampton, where about 500 members of the tribe live in modest homes on a 1,200-acre reservation. Not far away are the homes of Wall Street barons and celebrities of sports and entertainment, some of the estates valued at tens of millions.

"This could be a home run," said Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, whose county is home to the racetrack. "Belmont is the ideal location both for the operators of a casino, the residents and the local governments. If it is going to be in the region, I'd rather see it at Belmont."

New York Gov. David Paterson's administration is mulling bids from groups that want to run video slot machines at Aqueduct, which is a very short train ride from Belmont Park. The state estimates some $250 million in annual revenue and 1,200 new jobs in Queens from the slots.

I don't have a whole lot of comment on this story, except to say that if the Shinnecock and Belmont can get together and develop a tasteful, lucrative "racino" for their common good, more power to 'em.

Oh, and this story does bring to mind my recent idea for salvaging Hollywood Park. ... Doesn't seem so wacky now, does it?

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