The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe broke ground on the First Light Resort and Casino in Taunton, Massachusetts, in April 2016 but construction was halted in response to a lawsuit in federal court. Photo: First Light Resort and Casino
Land Acquisitions | Litigation

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe awaits Trump team's decision on casino

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is still waiting for the Trump administration to make a decision on its long-delayed casino in Massachusetts.

According to The Cape Cod Times, a decision is imminent. “It should be any day now,” an attorney who represents opponents of the First Light Resort and Casino, told the paper.

The project has been in limbo even though the Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the casino back in September 2015. Opponents claim the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar bars the tribe from following the land-into-trust process.

Under Carcieri, the BIA can place land in trust for tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934. The Mashpees didn't gain formal recognition of their status until 2007.


The tribe's casino site, located in the city of Taunton, remains in trust but a federal judge has ordered the BIA to reconsider. Jim Cason, the Associate Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior, is in charge of the review.

Cason, whose position at the department did not require Senate confirmation, was prepared to reject the tribe's application last summer. He even gave the tribe a copy of a draft decision that would have spelled defeat for the casino.

Instead, he asked the tribe and opponents for more information. He hasn't indicated when he might issue a decision and he is under no obligation to make one within a certain time frame.

Read More on the Story:
Federal decision on Mashpee tribe's land expected soon (The Cape Cod Times February 8, 2018)

Federal Court Decision:
District Court of Massachusetts: Littlefield v. Department of the Interior (July 28, 2016)

Supreme Court Decision in Carcieri v. Salazar:
Syllabus | Opinion [Thomas] | Concurrence [Breyer] | Dissent [Stevens] | Concurrence/Dissent [Souter]

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

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