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Judge holds hearing in gaming rights lawsuit in Massachusetts

Filed Under: Casino Stalker | Litigation
More on: carcieri, land-into-trust, massachusetts, supreme court, wampanaog
A federal judge heard from the state of Massachusetts, two tribes, a town government, a taxpayer group and a non-Indian developer during a hearing into a gaming rights lawsuit on Monday.

H.3702 authorized three casinos in the state, including one for "a federally recognized tribe." The lawsuit could determine which tribe -- if any -- gets the casino or if other developers will be able to bid for the casino in Region C.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe will finalize a new Class III gaming compact with Gov. Deval Patrick (D) next month, an attorney said. The tribe's land-into-trust application could be finalized by this spring of the summer, the attorney added.

"I expect the casino will be up and running in 2014," attorney Howard Cooper told Judge Nathaniel Gorton, The New Bedford Standard-Times reported.

An attorney for the state agreed a compact was forthcoming -- although assistant attorney general Loretta Lillios indicated it might be a couple of months away. Patrick, who wasn't at the hearing, told reporters that negotiations were progressing in “bits and pieces," The Martha's Vineyard Gazette reported.

The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe also appeared at the hearing in hopes of intervening in the lawsuit. The tribe contends it can engage in gaming, a view disputed by the state and by the town of Aquinnah, whose leaders want to intervene if the tribe is allowed to do so.

The lawsuit was filed by K.G. Urban Enterprises, a non-Indian developer that wants to bid for a casino in southeastern Massachusetts. The firm claims the tribal set-aside is race-based and violates the U.S. Constitution.

KG Urban also says the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe faces a major obstacle with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar. The ruling restricts the land-into-trust process to tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934 -- the Mashpees didn't gain federal recognition until May 2007.

"It sounds to me like it could take forever. The nub of the problem is that land into trust is a time-consuming process, even without the Carcieri problem," Paul Clement, a former Solicitor General at the Department of Justice who represents KG Urban, told the judge, the Standard-Times reported.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is expected to vote today on a plan to accept bids for Region C even as the tribe pursues the casino.

Get the Story:
Mashpee can have casino up and running in two years, lawyer says (The New Bedford Standard-Times 12/18)
Casino developer decries application process (The Cape Cod Times 12/18)
Federal Court Hears First Arguments in Complicated Case Over Casino Rights (The Martha's Vineyard Gazette 12/18)
Massachusetts casino panel to vote to OK southeastern bids (AP 12/18)

Related Stories:
Ex-aide to Massachusetts governor joins firm's gaming group (12/17)

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