Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to see BIA decision on casino project

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

It's only taken eight years but there's light at the end of the tunnel for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in its long quest for a casino in Massachusetts.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs plans to issue a decision on the tribe's land-into-trust application soon, according to news reports. An August 21 letter sent to the city of Taunton said to expect an answer in 30 days.

"We have always been confident in our prospects," Chairman Cedric Cromwell told The Taunton Daily Gazette. "However, this letter is not a final decision, but an indication that the process continues to move forward."

The tribe plans to build the $500 million First Light Resort and Casino on about 171 acres in Taunton. Another 151 acres in the town of Mashpee will be used for governmental and other purposes, according to the final environmental impact statement.

The tribe first submitted the application in August 2007, only a few months after its federal recognition became final. The tribe changed gaming sites and partners twice, slowing down the process somewhat.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar injected even more uncertainty. The ruling states that the BIA can only place land in trust for tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" as of 1934.

The BIA has since developed a two-part test to determine whether a tribe like the Mashpee can follow the land-into-trust process. The viability of the analysis has been upheld in federal court involving another recently recognized tribe.

Get the Story:
BIA notifies Taunton City Council of impending casino decision (The Taunton Daily Gazette 8/26)
BIA notifies Taunton City Council of impending casino decision (The Easton Journal 8/26)
Decision Clearing a Path for Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Casino Imminent (Cape Cod News 8/26)

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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