Casinos, medical marijuana, digital ads: With powwow shut down, tribe looks to new r…

Call it Shinnecock Inc.

The Shinnecock Indian Nation is on the brink of an economic transformation aimed at increasing self-sufficiency for the tribe’s 660 on-reservation members after decades of relying chiefly on government grants and its popular powwow to fund its government, health and education programs.  With the powwow, a major source of income for the tribe and its members, shut down this year by the pandemic, the search for new revenue streams takes on extra urgency.

Like the  tribe’s 65-foot tall monument and digital advertising tower that now greets visitors to the Hamptons on Sunrise Highway,  the nation’s leaders are turning up the volume on a series of economic development initiatives. They include plans for  a travel-mart and convenience store/gas station on Sunrise Highway, a medical marijuana and wellness center on tribal land on Montauk Highway, and half a dozen other business initiatives involving the sale of clothing, digital media and transportation. Funding for the projects, millions of dollars in all, is coming primarily from existing tribal financial ventures and traditional bank loans, officials said. 

At the same time, the tribe is continuing to pursue a long-planned move into gaming as part of a multigenerational effort to build wealth and create better paying jobs for a tribe whose unemployment rate remains higher than Suffolk County’s and New York State’s average. Around 60% of the tribe remain below the state poverty level. 

Just this week the tribe announced a vested partnership with gaming giant Seminole Hard Rock Entertainment and Tri-State Partners to pursue casino-gaming in the state, after receiving National Indian Gaming Commission approval of its gaming ordinance, a document outlining the structure and objectives of its gaming initiatives.

Gaming is “very much in the picture,” said Bryan Polite, chairman of the Shinnecock council of trustees.

While the COVID pandemic put some of the plans on a temporary hiatus, the tribe has managed to keep the interest of financial backers for each of the projects, he said. Site clearing has already begun for the medical marijuana and wellness center on Montauk Highway; the tribe is  working with financial and management partner Conor Green…


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