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A third Massachusetts casino could get another look

September 28, 2018

Prospects for a casino in southeastern Massachusetts got a bit of a boost this week when the Massachusetts Gaming Commission announced it will solicit public input before deciding whether to seek another round of bids from developers.

Having licensed casinos in western Massachusetts and the Greater Boston area, the commission opted in 2016 not to authorize a third casino in the southeastern portion of the state, rejecting a proposed Brockton project. At the time, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe expected to build a tribal casino in Taunton.

That project stalled, however, amid a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s right to take land into trust for the tribe.

Mass Gaming & Entertainment, the development partnership behind the Brockton proposal, asked in June that the commission reconsider the plan.

In a letter to attorneys for MG&E, the commission’s counsel wrote this week that state regulations would prohibit the commission from reconsidering the Brockton casino without holding another competitive application process.

“This is the only process currently available to the Commission for the issuance of a gaming license,” Catherine Blue wrote. “Any change to that process would require the promulgation of new regulations, following public discussion and public comment.”

She responded to MG&E’s claim that the commission’s 2016 rejection of the Brockton proposal was based on the “presumption” that the Mashpees’ Taunton casino would materialize. In fact, she wrote, the commission found that MG&E’s application “failed to demonstrate that the proposed project would maximize revenue to the Commonwealth or that it would offer the highest and best value to create a secure and robust gaming market in Region C (southeastern Massachusetts).”

Earlier in the month, the Mashpees took another hit.

On Sept. 7, a U.S. Department of the Interior official informed the tribe that a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision limiting the department’s authority to acquire land for tribes that gained federal recognition after 1934 prevented it from taking land into trust for the Mashpees, who were recognized in 2007.

“We have been utterly abandoned by our federal trustee,” Cedric Cromwell, the Mashpee tribal chairman, said in a statement this week.

The tribe filed a complaint in federal court challenging the Interior Department’s most recent action.

The Mashpees also could be rescued by proposed federal legislation that would reaffirm Interior’s acquisition of land for the tribe, including 151 acres in Taunton and 170 acres in the town of Mashpee.

A southeastern Massachusetts casino could pose a competitive threat to a new casino that opened this month in Tiverton, R.I., as well as to Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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