Tribal Organization: Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe
CASINO PROJECT IS STOPPED PENDING COURT DECISION OCT 15, 2019
Routes 24 & Route 140
Taunton, MA 02718
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe proposed four-phase plan to build a $1 billion casino in Taunton about 40 miles south of Boston and 20 miles from Providence.
The plan includes a 150,000 sq-ft casino with 3,000 slots, 150 table games and 40 poker tables, two 12-story hotel towers with 300 rooms each, indoor/Outdoorpater park, a family water park hotel and many restaurants.
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The state enacted the Massachusetts Casino Bill extablishing the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) and authorizing three regional casinos and a slots parlor.
A non-binding ballot measure in support of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe's casino proposal was passed by voters in Taunton, but rejected by voters in East Taunton where the casino would be built.
In Sept 2015 the U.S. Department of the Interior approved the Tribe's request to take their land into federal trust, including their 152-acre casino site in Taunton. This transfer was completed January 8, 2016.
In April the tribe broke ground to begin construction of their casino.
In July construction stopped when a U.S. District Court judge ruled the federal land transfer violated the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. The Interior Department appealed.
In April the U.S. Interior Department decided to drop its appeal and seek a legal alternative.
In September Interior Department reversed its decision and conceded that the tribal land could not be kept in trust.
The tribe is seeking federal legislation to overcome its legal challenges to reinstate its trust land and resume its casino project. Two bills have been introduced in the U.S. House of Representative that support the tribe (HR 312 and HR 375).
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The First Light casino plan calls for construction to be completed in 4 phases. These phases and their estimated schedules are shown below:
150,000 Sq. Ft.
150 table games
40 poker tables
Food Court - 7 to 10 food outlets
Two Fine Dining Restaurants
- Steakhouse / Seafood
- Asian Restaurant
Center Bar with lounge seats and small stage
Retail Space - 10 retail stores
Parking - 2,500 to 3,200 space parking garage and 2,085 surface parking spaces
Hotel Tower 1
Additional gaming space
12 Stories in height
6 Event / Meeting Rooms
Hotel Tower 2
Cafe restaurant - 200 seat, open 24 hours
Family Water Park Hotel
Event Center - 15,000 sq ft
Indoor/Outdoor Water Park - 25,000 Sq. Ft.
Parking - additional 700 surface parking spots
July 8, 2019
A final decision is pending in DC District Court that will determine whether the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe can build an Indian gaming casino in Taunton, Massachusetts.
After years of legal battles and a 2018 reversal by the Interior Department against the land-to-trust transfer, the final outcome for the Taunton casino will be determined by three groups: U.S. Department of Interior, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the City of Taunton.
Last week the District Court released court filings from each of these groups. Each group agreed to a timetable to reach a final outcome.
The U.S. Department of Interior has until July 19 to file an additional explanation for reversing its decision to take Mashpee Tribe land into trust.
The Mashpee Tribe will then submit their response by July 26.
The are two possible outcomes expected from this case:
If the Department of Interior approves the Mashpee casino, the tribe will proceed with building the first Light Casino Resort. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is then expected to close licensing other casinos in the southeast region.
If the Department of Interior rejects transferring land into trust for the Mashpee, the tribe may seek a commercial casino license for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, or make a political push in Congress to pass federal legislation supported by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts).
The final decision of the DC District Cour is scheduled for October 15.
May 15, 2019
House Bill 312 was passed today by the U.S. House of Representatives after being pulled from the floor last week following President Trump's opposition tweet. The vote was 275 to 146 and included 47 republicans and all but 2 Democrats.
The bill, titled "Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act", would reaffirm the tribe's sovereignty over its 321 acres of land by insuring the land is transferred into federal trust. The tribe intends to use part of that land to build its First Light Resort and Casino.
The bill will now head to the Senate which may or may not take up the measure. If passed by the Senate, It may be vetoed by the President.
Two bills in the U.S. House of Representatives that would help the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe reinstate their casino project were pulled by House leadership just hours before a scheduled vote by the full House.
The decision by Democratic leaders followed a tweet from President Trump that read:
"Republicans shouldn't vote for H.R. 312, a special interest casino Bill, backed by Elizabeth (Pocahontas) Warren. It is unfair and doesn't treat Native Americans equally!" - Trump tweet 11:48 a.m. Wednesday
The bills had passed the House Natural Resources Committee and were on a fast track for a house vote Wednesday. The bills will now move through the regular legislative process.
H.R.312 "Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act"
Introduced 01/08/2019 by Rep. William R. Keating (D-MA)
This bill would reaffirm the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe reservation as trust land and dismiss all pending actions and lawsuits in federal court.
Introduced 01/09/2019 by Rep. Tom Cole(R-OK)
This bill would amend the Indian Reorganization Act of June 18, 1934 to reaffirm the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for Indian Tribes, and for other purposes.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren publicly supports the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act, but it now appears her support may have become a liability.
January 8, 2019
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe hopes the U.S Congress will reconsider and pass legislation to keep the tribe's reservation land in federal trust and allow the tribe to proceed with its casino plans. A Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Re-affirmation bill was reintroduced to Congress on Jan 8 by U.S. representatives William Keating and Joe Kennedy.
"We are extremely grateful that a bipartisan group of Congressional representatives understands the injustice of taking sovereign land away from the first Americans and have moved swiftly to ensure this nation does not return to the dark days of removing indigenous people from their land," wrote Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell in a statement released Monday.
The bill must first pass the Senate and House and signed by the President before a legal challenged can be launched.
September 07, 2018
On Friday a decision was made that put the future Taunton Casino development on hold. The casino project would be owned by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Cape Cod. The casino would have cost $1 billion to complete.
The tribe was notified that the land where they wanted to build the casino would not be placed into trust for them by the U.S. Department of the Interior. In 2015 300 acres were placed into trust by the department for the tribe. The tribe was then able to use the land as their sovereign reservation as it was declared as such by the federal government. However, long lasting and ongoing legal battles by residents in the area caused a delay in the project. The department was then ordered by a federal judge to reconsider the action of placing the land into trust. The judge ruled that putting the land into trust did not fall under the authority of the department to do so.
In the ruling that was 28 pages long, it was said that land cannot be placed into trust for the tribe under the Indian Reorganization Act. The act was passed in 1934. Under this act, the tribe does not qualify to have the land placed into trust because it was not under the federal jurisdiction when it passed.
The tribe can trace their ancestors back to the arrival of the Pilgrims. However, they did not receive their federal recognition until 2007.
The federal government can grant a special status by placing land into trust. The property title is held by the government and allows for a tribe to use the land for their own use under their own decisions. They are free to use the land's natural resources and are tax exempt.
Ground was previously broken for the Taunton Casino project. However, construction was stopped by the tribe after the ruling.
June 21, 2018
As of now, 26 letters of support have been submitted for the proposed bill called the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reaffirmation Act. The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe have been attempting to develop a casino in Taunton. Support for the project has been growing recently. 21 individual tribes, nonprofits, and pan-tribal organizations have submitted their support for the project.
Currently the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe are waiting for a committee hearing to be scheduled by state lawmakers. The tribe is interested in ending the legal battles regarding their reservation.
The proposed bill would end the controversy over property ownership. The land in Taunton was agreed upon to be taken into trust for the tribe. However, the land was sold for the price of $1 billion to neighbors that oppose the project after the lawsuit was ruled in their favor.
The concern is that the 150 acres of land in Taunton will be taken out of trust by the U.S. Department of Interior. The tribe also owns 171 acres of land in Mashpee.
Meetings are being scheduled by the Interior Department with tribal leaders from across the country. The meetings are in regard to taking land into trust for the tribes. The department is looking for recommendations on changes for the current regulation.
One of the changes that the Interior Department is considering is how to comply with court orders asking land to be removed from the trust.
Recently Rush Street casino company submitted a letter to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. The company is located in Chicago. They are interested in joining with the Brockton Fairgrounds to develop a casino. That casino would cost $677 million to complete.
The proposed casino in Brockton was originally denied in April 2016. The state gaming commission rejected the plan with a vote of 4 to 1. Now Rush Street is asking for a reconsideration for their plan.
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