Still no word from BIA on Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe casino bid

An artist's rendering of proposed First Light Resort and Casino in Taunton, Massachusetts. Image from MWT

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts is still waiting for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to make a decision on its gaming project.

In a December 31, 2012, letter to the tribe, Assistant Secretary Washburn said the tribe's land-into-trust application would be finalized in "early 2013." But the final environmental impact statement for the $500 million First Light Resort and Casino in the city of Taunton wasn't released until September 2014 and there's been no major action since.

The tribe submitted the land-into-trust application within months of gaining federal recognition in May 2007. But before the BIA could make a decision, the tribe changed gaming sites and partners twice.

Then the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar threw a wrench in the process because it restricted the land-into-trust process to tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" as of 1934. The justices, however, did not define the meaning of "under federal jurisdiction."

So the Wampanoags remain hopeful of success since a federal judge upheld a land-into-trust application that was approved for the recently recognized Cowlitz Tribe in Washington. The case, though, is being appealed.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission opened the tribe's region in the southeastern part of the state to non-Indian bidders. But even that process is moving slowly -- two of the three developers are seeking extensions to continue working on their projects.

Get the Story:
Two area casino applicants seek more time (State House News Service 3/17)
Casino Bidders Seek More Time for Applications (Again) (The Boston Globe 3/17)

DOI Solicitor Opinion:
M-37029: The Meaning of "Under Federal Jurisdiction" for Purposes of the Indian Reorganization Act (March 12, 2014)

Federal Register Notice:
Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Fee-to-Trust Transfer of Property and Subsequent Development of a Resort/Hotel and Ancillary Facilities in the City of Taunton, MA and Tribal Government Facilities in the Town of Mashpee, MA by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (September 5, 2014)

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