Foes promise suit over Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe's casino

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

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is moving forward with its long-delayed casino and opponents are still promising a lawsuit.

The case, though, won't be filed any time soon, The Cape Cod Times reported. Opponents told the Massachusetts Gaming Commission that they will wait until the last minute possible to challenge the land-into-trust decision for the tribe.

"Since the Administrative Procedures Act allows us six years to file in federal court, and understanding that litigation is costly, we expect to be taking advantage of all the time allotted to us in order to raise the funds required for a successful challenge," opponent Tracy Marzelli told the commission in a letter, the Times reported.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the land-into-trust application in September after years of review. The tribe now plans to build the First Light Resort and Casino on 151 acres in the city of Taunton.

Even though the land is already in trust, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Salazar v. Patchak allows lawsuits within six years, as Marzelli pointed out.

Once a suit is filed, it's expected that opponents will raise the Supreme Court's decision in Carcieri v. Salazar. The ruling restricts the land-into-trust process to tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" as of 1934.

The Mashpees didn't gain federal recognition until May 2007 but the BIA determined that the tribe lived on a reservation in 1934.

The tribe plans to break ground on the casino in early 2016 but details haven't been announced.

Get the Story:
Opponents of Mashpee tribe's casino say they will take full 6 years to file lawsuit (The Cape Cod Times 12/18)
State Gaming Commission praises Mashpee tribe's casino progress (The Taunton Daily Gazette 12/18)

Relevant Documents:
Chairman Cedric Cromwell Announcement | Mashpee Wampanoag Trbe Press Release | Bureau of Indian Affairs Press Release | Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn Letter to Chairman Cedric Cromwell | Record of Decision | Attachment I - Legal Descriptions | Attachment II - Maps | Attachment III - Mitigation Monitoring and Enforcement Plan | Attachment IV - Response to Comments on the Final Environmental Impact Statement

Federal Register Notices:
Land Acquisitions; Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (September 25, 2015)
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)
Land Acquisitions: Appeals of Land Acquisition Decisions (November 13, 2013)

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

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