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Fed Policy Change Complicates Middleboro Indian Casino

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January 11, 2008

MIDDLEBORO, MA - The plans of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to build a $1 billion casino resort complex in Middleboro could be impeded by last weeks decision by the U.S. Department of Interior to deny 11 applications for off-reservation Indian casinos.

"The secretary (of the Interior) sent a message to all tribes pursuing Indian gaming," said Kathryn Rand, an Indian gambling expert at the University of North Dakota. "It shows how there are significant political hurdles."

"This indicates some general unfriendliness (from the federal government) toward gaming on newly acquired lands,'' Rand said. ‘‘It says that not only are there a number of legal obstacles, there are also a number of political obstacles."

The department's Bureau of Indian Affairs reviews applications from federally-recognized tribes who want to place their lands into federal trust. If accepted the tribal land becomes sovereign and free from taxation. This is an essential step under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 for tribes seeking to open a casino on the land.

Last August the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe filed an application to place 539 acres near Route 44 in Middleboro into federal trust plus 140 acres in the town of Mashpee into federal trust. Mashpee is the tribe's headquarters. It wants both parcels to be considered its "reservation". The Bureau Of Indian Affairs could take issue with two parcels and tell the tribe to choose one.

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