Gambling Bill Looks Good For Mashpee Wampanoags

By Sarah Birnbaum

Aug. 25, 2011

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe had worked in 2007 to bring a casino to Middleborough, Mass., shortly after they were recognized as a tribe. A poster declaring support for the project is seen in town that year. (AP)

BOSTON — The casino gambling bill unveiled by Massachusetts legislative leaders earlier this week would give a boost to the Mashpee Wampanoag Native American tribe.

The bill licenses three casinos in three different regions in the state.

The one in the southeastern area would be set aside for a Native American tribe, presumably the Mashpee Wampanoags, but there are several conditions.

The tribe would first need to purchase the land for the casino. It would also need to negotiate a compact with the state establishing a profit-sharing agreement.

The Mashpees would have one year to meet these requirements. If they failed, the license would go to open bidding.

State officials are concerned if they don’t work out a deal with the tribe now, the Mashpees could eventually open a casino on their own under federal gaming laws, which would also allow them to avoid paying taxes.

But some casino observers say the Native American carve out could open the state up to discrimination lawsuits from commercial bidders.

The gambling proposal is expected to be debated next month.

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