Interior Puts Land-into-Trust for Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe: Casino to Become Reality

Drawing of proposed casino

Drawing of proposed casino

Historic Tribe a Step Closer to Opening a Casino Near Boston

Published September 18, 2015

WASHINGTON – With the Department of the Interior – Indian Affairs’ decision released Friday, September 18, 2015, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, based in Mashpee, Massachusettes, is now closer to opening a casino. The Wampanoag Tribe’s ancestors are those who greeted the Mayflower with pilgrims on board.

On Friday, Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn issued a decision approving a request by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to acquire 170 acres of land into trust in the town of Mashpee, for tribal governmental, cultural and conservation purposes, and 151 acres in trust in the City of Taunton, Massachusetts for the purpose of constructing and operating a gaming facility and resort. The lands in both Mashpee and Taunton will become the tribe’s first lands held in trust.

In addition to the casino/resort, the tribe’s plans for the site in Taunton includes three hotels, an event center, restaurants, retail stores, and a water park. The project would create at least 3,500 full-time (permanent) and part-time positions, and 287 construction jobs.

“The tribe’s origins in southeastern Massachusetts predate the arrival of Europeans on this continent,” Assistant Secretary Washburn said in his decision. “At the time of initial European contact, the tribe’s ancestors occupied all of modern-day Bristol, Barnstable, and Plymouth Counties.” Washburn said that the tribe’s descendants were dispersed and lost much of their land in these areas to English settlers.

The land to be acquired in Mashpee is located near the tribe’s historical Indian community during the colonial and revolutionary periods. Traditionally, they used the lands in Mashpee, and in the vicinity of the Taunton, for subsistence use and occupancy. With the acquisition in trust of the lands in Mashpee and Taunton, the tribe can enjoy the restoration of lands similar to those it lost long ago.

In 2013, the Tribe negogiated a compact with the state of Massachusetts that pays 17 percent of gaming revenue from the proposed casino if the state agreed not to allow the opening of another casino in southeastern part of Massachusetts.

The proposed casino will cost $500 million to construct and equip. The site is located between Boston and Providence, Rhode Island.

In reaching Friday’s decision, the Department conducted a thorough review of the tribe’s history and application, as well as the administrative record and comments submitted by numerous interested parties. The Department also developed an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that included an in-depth analysis of potential effects of the proposed casino/resort and required mitigation measures to address any potential impacts.

The Department also determined that the lands in Mashpee and Taunton met the “initial reservation” exception of IGRA, and, thus, the tribe may conduct gaming. (Further, the Department determined that it is authorized to acquire the lands in Mashpee and Taunton in trust pursuant to the IRA, and in keeping with the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Carcieri v. Salazar.)

Washburn noted that as a result of acquiring these lands in trust, the tribe will benefit from long-term and stable economic development as well as opportunities for self-governance and self-determination. Acquisition will enable the tribe to meet the needs of its members by providing employment, housing, and educational opportunities, and will enable the tribe to meet other critical tribal needs. Economic development also will greatly enhance the tribe’s ability to preserve its history and community by funding the preservation and restoration of culturally significant sites significant sites. Washburn praised the constructive government-to-government cooperation between the tribe and the Town of Mashpee and the City of Taunton.

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  1. Karen Sherry Brackett 4 years ago
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