The Ups & Downs of the Wampanoag’s Casino Hopes are Still Alive

Patrick and tribal chairman Cedric Cromwell announced the signing of the compact Wednesday. It replaces an earlier agreement calling for the tribe to hand over 21.5 percent of gambling proceeds to Massachusetts. The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs rejected the earlier deal, saying the revenue sharing figure was too high and would violate the spirit of an Indian gaming law that says casino profits should primarily benefit a tribe’s members.

Under the new compact, the tribe would pay the state 17 percent of gambling revenues if its proposed resort casino in Taunton was the only gaming facility in southeastern Massachusetts. The share would drop to 15 percent if a slots parlor opens in the region and to zero if a casino operated by a commercial developer is built in the region.

Critics of a compact inked by Gov. Deval Patrick and the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe this week to build a casino in Taunton said yesterday they fear the deal may collapse in Washington and result in lengthy lawsuits — even if it passes muster in the State House.

“The tribe faces insurmountable obstacles to getting land placed in trust by the federal government by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act,” said state Rep. Robert M. Koczera. “We’re not talking about tribal gaming occurring months or even a year after the other casinos. We are talking about decades after commercial casinos are open in Massachusetts. We cannot afford to wait months and years from today. … We’re suffering. We’re hurting economically.”

Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoags, and state Rep. Shaunna O’Connell insist the tribe’s plan to build a casino in a Taunton industrial park is ready to go and it could be open by early 2015. In order for that to happen, the tribe needs the federal government to take over a parcel of land and turn that into tribal property, a process that Cromwell said is well under way. “We have made historic, swift progress toward our land being taken into trust by the secretary of the interior,” Cromwell said. “We are literally years ahead of any other project in the commonwealth and we are poised to create thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic growth.”

Opposition & support are both rising in southeastern communities. Some top politicians in the region were divided on the issue, depending on the communities they represent.

  • Rep. Shauna L. O’Connell, a Taunton Republican, said the tribe has met every requirement of the state law.
  • Fall River Mayor William A. Flanagan urged the commission to accept bids for a commercial casino in the region.
  • Taunton Mayor Thomas Hoye warned that if the tribe opens as a fourth casino in the state, using its rights under the federal Indian gaming law, the state and the city would lose the ability to receive revenues from the Indian casino.
  • A couple of New Bedford lawmakers pleaded for a commercial casino for the area.
  • Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral, a New Bedford Democrat, said the commission should immediately move to allow a commercial casino in the southeast region.”We in southeastern Massachusetts should not be left behind the rest of the state,” Cabral said, “the market should determine if the southeast region can support both a commercial and a tribal casino.

I thought the Western Casino License would be where the excitement would be – but the southeast is building interest as well. That’s all for now. In a future blog, I will look into the history of the Mashpee tribal nation.

Binbin

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