Casino news in New England has settled down recently. Twin River waits for the November referendum concerning moving Newport Grand to Tiverton, RI. MGM Springfield is progressing nicely in Springfield, and Wynn Boston Harbor is proceeding after Somerville has dropped its lawsuit. Oxford Casino and Hollywood Bangor Casino continue to meander along – Oxford with it’s own hotel in the works and the Hampton Inn across the street finishing construction.
But one project continues to waiver in reality – the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Casino Project “First Light.”
According to the Boston Globe’s Sean P. Murphy and Milton J. Valencia, “when US District Judge William G. Young ruled in favor of a group of Taunton property owners who had sued to block the project, it seemed at first to be an insurmountable setback to the tribe’s plans for a $1 billion casino. But the next day, as attention focused on the tribe’s next move, a second federal court ruling involving the Cowlitz tribe in Washington state gave its legal quest renewed hope, providing a potential road map — as if on cue — for a successful appeal.”
“The two rulings are inconsistent, and that gives the Mashpee a chance to get a reversal,” said Dennis Whittlesey, a Washington, D.C., lawyer with decades of experience in Indian law.
The Mashpee had hoped to open the state’s first full-scale casino next June, but now that the tribe is forced to stop construction it already began months ago, with the tribe likely to face a lengthy delay.
In NETG’s previous post “Wampanoag Taunton Casino Could Change Everything” I suggested “The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will have their hands full with what to do. The Four-Phase plan (for expanding gaming in Massachusetts) will probably take years to get started with red-tape, law suits – you know, the usual Massachusetts casino politics. But in the end, it will happen.
Now, three phases – Wynn, MGM & Plainridge – are moving forward. I’m not so sure about phase four, which was to be another commercial casino. Instead, the Wampanoags broke ground and Rush Gaming’s project in Brockton was sent packing.
The stagnation of the Mashpee First Light project implies many “timely” possibilities:
- The battle for Boston-area supremacy between First Light and Wynn Boston Harbor now leans toward Wynn. Without the great head-start for the Wampanoags, they will have to compete for similar opening times.
- Twin River’s move of their Newport Grand casino to Tiverton has a greater chance to succeed in competing with Plainridge and building at the same time as First Light.
- Plairidge Casino has more time to “tweak” things for its growing patron base.
- Will Brockton and Rush Gaming be welcomed back to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission party if First Light doesn’t happen? Or is it too late to compete with everything else?
In recent years, you can still count on a few things in New England: Fall Foliage (and raking leaves), Hurricane warnings and more changing weather, and ……… casino chatter, rhetoric, construction, and litigation.
So, for now, enjoy the “Non-News” time of the New England casino scene. November is just around the corner.