Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A casino? Really?

Long Islanders love their casinos.

We fly to Vegas (cheap, non-stop flights from Islip!), drive to Atlantic City (or take the bus -- it's practically free!), or head up to Connecticut for Mohegan Sun or Foxwoods (high-speed passenger ferries from Orient Point!). It's all very convenient and loads of fun.

But a casino right in our own backyard? How gauche.

Shinnecock Nation, however, has seen how much more money a tribe can make running a casino than selling discount cigarettes on the side of the road, and it wants a piece of the action. Fair enough. The Shinnecocks got the good news at the end of last year that they met the federal recognition criteria, and once they officially get that, you know that building a casino on Long Island will be at the top of their to-do list.

Building a casino out in Southampton will be all but impossible due to traffic, geographic and likely massive residential opposition. Maybe they could build one in Yaphank, near the expressway. Instead, the Shinnecocks have been talking to Nassau County executive Ed Mangano about a casino project that would include a renovated Nassau Coliseum.

Goodbye Lighthouse, hello all-you-can-eat buffets, slot machines and blackjack tables. Jackpot!

While Newsday wonders whether the casino talks "cast a shadow on the Lighthouse," I'm thinking that this could actually speed things along.

The Town of Hempstead wants the Lighthouse pared down and is in the process of rezoning the parcel to make that happen. Charles Wang and Scott Rechler have so far not budged on their mixed-use proposal, which opponents liken to a small city.

Mangano has said that the county has to keep an open mind and look at all possibilities.

I don't know what's going on behind closed doors, but here's how I imagine (or hope) it all goes down.

Local opponents, given the choice between the Lighthouse in some form and a casino, realize that the former is much more palatable.

Wang -- who shot for the moon with his Lighthouse plan -- agrees to work with the new zoning and get something done, which will include a wonderful new arena with lucrative revenue streams. You know, so they can bring in some more talent and maybe win a championship? That's what this is all about, right?

The Shinnecocks don't mind being used because the talks show other municipalities that they are serious players, and maybe another entity (Suffolk County? Riverhead Town?) will be more open to building a casino that would generate the kind of tourist revenue that Connecticut is enjoying so much.

And Mangano comes out looking like a real player and the savior of Nassau County's future.

Too much to hope for? Maybe. But as hockey fans, we just want this mess resolved. We're tired of the politics, the pettiness and really tired of waiting. We want to replace the dump our team plays in with a better facility that will not only make games more enjoyable to attend, but will bring in more money for our team, which we hope will mean better players, more victories and maybe -- just maybe -- another Stanley Cup in our lifetime.

Will that finally happen? I'm not ready to bet on it. Not yet.

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