The Shinnecock Indian tribe of New York is proposing a tribal-run racino at Belmont Park racetrack in Elmont, New York—just eight miles from the planned racino at Aqueduct race track in Queens borough.
Some observers fear that two gaming operations in close proximity could undercut each facility’s long-term viability.
“It has to make sense from an economic growth perspective,” said U.S. Senator Kristen Gillibrand at a press conference. “It has to create jobs.”
Aqueduct is the only project currently approved by the legislature. Construction on the $250 million racino and other upgrades were to have begun this year, but stalled when winning bidder Delaware North of Buffalo could not come up with a promised $370 million franchise fee by the end of March. Governor David Paterson reopened the bidding, and six groups are now vying for the rights to build and run a gaming operation at Aqueduct.
“Our preference is to continue on that path and support Aqueduct,” said Charlie Hayward, president and CEO of the New York Racing Association, which is based at Aqueduct. “All the demolition and acquisition of permits has already been done.”
State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. also supports the Aqueduct racino because “it will create jobs and improve the local economy and save Aqueduct as a racetrack.” Addabbo told the Queens Chronicle he is not ready to endorse a casino at Belmont. “They would be detrimental to each other if they had similar gaming,” he said. “They need different gaming so they can flourish and co-exist.”
The Shinnecocks cannot proceed on any gaming project until the federal government officially recognizes the tribe. The Department of the Interior has until December 15 to decide whether it will approve the longstanding request.