06/14/2010 11:00PM

New York tribe gets federal recognition

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Federal officials on Tuesday gave official recognition to the Shinnecock Indian tribe on Long Island in New York State, a decision that is expected to lead to an effort by the tribe to pursue a casino on or near their reservation in the future.

The Shinnecocks, which have about 500 members who live on a 1,200-acre reservation in Southampton, N.Y., and another 700 members who live elsewhere, first applied for federal recognition in 2003 after breaking ground on a planned casino that local officials vowed to block. Federal recognition allows the tribe to qualify for federal grants and could lead to a Shinnecock casino.

The reservation is located near Shinnecock Bay at the Eastern end of Long Island, amid some of the wealthiest communities in the United States. Because of its small size and its location, many gambling officials consider the reservation to be impractical for a casino.

The Shinnecocks, however, could pursue a deal with the state that would allow them to operate a casino at a different location on Long Island. On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that New York. Gov. David Paterson said he was "open to negotiating a more suitable location." New York has recognized the Shinnecocks as a tribe for several hundred years.

A casino would also need additional federal approvals, and any effort to open a casino is expected to take years.

Casinos are already legal at nine racing facilities in New York, including Aqueduct racetrack in Queens. The New York state lottery division is currently conducting a bidding process for an operator for the Aqueduct casino, which is expected to open next year.