State Committee Meets on Casino in Taunton
Massachusetts lawmakers are reviewing the casino agreement between the state and the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Economic Development held a public hearing at the Statehouse on the compact signed last week by Governor Deval Patrick and tribal leaders.
The Mashpee Wampanog has plans to build a $500 million facility in Taunton. They say it will bring thousands of jobs to Southeastern Massachusetts, which has experienced double digit unemployment. But there's still a major stumbling block: the federal government needs to designate the land in Taunton as tribal land in order for Indian Gaming to take place there. But that's not a sure thing.
The US Supreme court ruled in the Carcieri decision tribes cannot make land outside of their reservation tribal land, if they weren’t tribes back in 1934. The Mashpee wasn’t recognized until many years later.
But the Patrick administration and the Mashpee are still lobbying the federal government for approval. Mo Cowan, the governor’s chief of staff and lead compact negotiator, says, so far, the feds have been receptive:
"If we take a signal I say with respect it should be the issue is not foreclosed and there is a door, and it is going to be up to us and the tribe to make a case hand in hand to make the strongest case possible that there is a reason, an ample basis to make a positive finding on its land in trust."
But at the hearing, Southeastern Massachusetts lawmakers were concerned the process of getting the land into trust could take years, and stall thousands of jobs and millions of badly needed dollars from flowing into the region.