Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe leaves casino operation to big firm

Artist's rendering of the First Light Resort and Casino in Taunton, Massachusetts. Image from Steelman Partners / Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts will leave the operation of its forthcoming casino to a well-known player in the Indian gaming industry.

The Genting Group is entering into a management contract to run the First Light Resort and Casino in the city of Taunton, Chairman Cedric Cromwell told the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. Such agreements typically require the tribe to share a percentage of revenues -- as much as 40 percent -- with the developer.

“Genting is putting up millions and millions and millions, and has never stopped believing in our goal,” Cromwell told the commission at a public meeting that was held on the tribe's reservation on Tuesday, The Boston Globe reported.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act requires management contracts to be approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission. News reports did not say whether the tribe's agreement has already been submitted to the agency.

“So, is it real? Yes,” Kevin Jones, the president of Genting Massachusetts, said at the meeting, The Brockton Enterprise reported. “Who’s going to operate it? Genting on behalf of the tribe. Is it fully financed? Yes.”

The New England Casino Race: Tribal and commercial gaming facilities in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island

The Genting Group is based in Malaysia and its affiliates financed the casino owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in neighboring Connecticut. The firm also loaned money to the Seneca Nation for its gaming operation in New York

Genting operates the Resorts World New York in New York City. The slot machine facility boasts impressive returns.

The Mashpee Wampanaog Tribe plans to open the first phase of the casino in the summer of 2017. That would beat commercial projects elsewhere by more than a year.

Billionaire Steve Wynn, whose company Wynn Resorts won the license to develop a commercial casino in the eastern region of the state, plans to break ground on the Wynn Boston Harbor in July despite pending litigation. He said he wasn't worried about the tribe's rapid development.

"Native Americans got a tough deal when we showed up 700 years ago and the fact that there getting some benefits now by getting gaming across the nation is fine by me. I wish them well and would love to compete with them and anybody else," Wynn said at a press conference, State House News Service reported.

MGM Resorts International won the license for the casino in western Massachusetts. The $950 million project in Springfield isn't due to open until the fall of 2018.

Get the Story:
Mashpee tribe picks operator for planned Taunton casino (The Boston Globe 3/16)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe blasts Brockton casino backer during public meeting (The Brockton Enterprise 3/16)
Mashpee Wampanoag tribe moving ahead rapidly with Taunton casino plans (Stae House News Service 3/15)
Casino mogul Steve Wynn says he doesn't care about a rival casino being developed south of Boston by the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe (AP 3/15)
Steve Wynn Comes To Boston (WBUR 3/15)
Steve Wynn vows July groundbreaking for Everett casino (The Boston Herald 3/16)

Federal Register Notices:
Proclaiming Certain Lands as Reservation for the Mashpee Wampanoag (January 8, 2016)
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)

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

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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