Mashpees' Mass. gaming compact alters casino view

With its publication Monday in the Federal Register, the U.S. Department of the Interior-approved gaming compact between the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts became effective.

And that gave the Mashpees an opportunity to refocus some attention on their plan to open a $500 million resort casino in Taunton, in the southeastern portion of the Bay State.

In a statement, tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell noted "the significance of (Monday's) development given all the other licensing activities underway in Massachusetts." That activity includes Foxwoods Massachusetts' recent announcement that it is looking for a site in Fall River to locate a commercial casino. Earlier, another commercial operator filed an application for a New Bedford casino.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission had been expected to grant but one casino license for southeastern Massachusetts, which has been designated "Region C." The commission is also granting single casino licenses in western Massachusetts (Region A) and Greater Boston (Region B), as well as one slots parlor.

"If the tribal-state compact is breached in Region C by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission awarding a commercial license to another destination resort casino, the Tribe will pay zero revenue to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts," Cromwell said. "If the Mass Gaming Commission does not award another commercial destination resort casino license in Region C, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe will pay 17 percent gross gaming revenue to the Commonwealth."

Massachusetts' gaming laws call for commercial casinos to pay the state 25 percent of gross gaming revenues.

Before the Mashpees can move forward in Taunton, the Department of the Interior must agree to take tribal lands into trust for the casino project.

"The Tribe is still on an aggressive path in moving the proposed destination resort casino forward," Cromwell said. "We look forward to putting shovels in the ground to commence construction and bringing a world-class destination resort casino to Taunton, Massachusetts."

A Mashpee casino would operate under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Commercial casinos in the state would be regulated by the gaming commission.

The 2,600-member Mashpee tribe gained federal recognition in 2007.


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