Southeastern Mass Now Open to Commercial Bidders

Well, they went ahead and did it – and the Mashpees feel it’s misguided!

I hate to say it, but I told you so! Well, alright, I didn’t actually say it exactly, but alluded to it at the end of last year that the Massachusetts Gambling Commission would consider four casinos, adding one more to the Southeast Region. I also suggested it would become a problem, saturating the area with two Massachusetts casinos, Twin River, and the two Ct casinos within a radius of about 100 miles. (Notice I didn’t include Newport Grand? I’m afraid this might be the end of that property if all this goes through.)

So, the state gambling commission voted unanimously Thursday to open the door for commercial developers to apply for casino licenses in southeastern Massachusetts, a region that until now had been reserved for a federally-recognized Indian tribe and doesn’t preclude the tribe from continuing with its effort to open a $500 million resort casino in Taunton.

Members of the five-member commission, which is overseeing the state’s 2011 casino gambling law, said it had little choice given the complex set of legal and regulatory hurdles facing the tribe. Prior to the vote, Stephen Crosby, the commission’s chair, said the plan to open the bidding was the best solution from among a number of undesirable options. However, the Mashpee insist they are on course to break ground in Taunton within the next year. But to do so they must gain land-in-trust approval from the federal government for the 146-acre site, a process that some legal analysts say could take years and is clouded by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that limits land taking for tribes that were recognized before 1934. The Mashpee received federal recognition in 2007.

The proposal adopted by the commission would allow commercial companies in southeastern Massachusetts to apply for casino licenses under the same competitive process that is now being used in the two other regions, eastern and western Massachusetts. In the meantime, the Mashpee would be able to continue with its efforts, which fall outside the commission’s jurisdiction.

Since the process of selecting a commercial proposal could take until late 2014, Crosby said that would give the tribe time to resolve its legal and regulatory issues and if it does, the commission could then opt not to award a commercial license.

But Cedric Cromwell, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribal chairman, warned the commission that its decision could lead to four casinos being built in Massachusetts rather than the three envisioned under the state’s casino law. The tribe has said that it would continue to pursue its Taunton proposal under a separate federal process even if the commission awards a commercial license.

In my opinion, this will just inside the Mashpees more. Remember there is also a slots only casino in addition.

Did I say “Saturation?”

Yeppers, I did.

That’s all for now.

Binbin