Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe prepares for decision on gaming plan

Cedric Cromwell serves as chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts. Photo from Facebook

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe remains cautiously optimistic for a decision on its casino project in Massachusetts.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs notified the city of Taunton and the town of Mashpee of a potential decision on the tribe's land-into-trust application in those communities. The tribe plans to build the $500 million First Light Resort and Casino on 171 acres in Taunton and utilize another 151 acres in Mashpee for governmental and other purposes, according to the final environmental impact statement.

"We have always been confident in our prospects," Chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a press release, The Falmouth Enterprise reported. "However, this letter is not a final decision, but an indication that the process continues to move forward."

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

In a December 31, 2012, letter to the tribe, Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn promised a decision in early to spring of 2013. That deadline came and went amid concerns about 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" as of 1934. The justices, however, did not define that phrase.

The BIA has since developed a 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:
Decision On Tribe’s Land Trust, Casino Imminent But Time Frame Still Uncertain (The Falmouth Enterprise 8/28)
Towns on notice for federal decision on Mashpee Wampanoag (The Cape Cod Times 8/27)

Some Opinions:
Editorial: Region stuck in Bureau of Indian Affairs' red tape (The Taunton Daily Gazette 8/28)
Editorial: Gaming law's efficacy to soon be tested (The New Bedford Standard-Times 8/28)

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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