What You Need To Know
- The Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe have signed a Compact governing Tribal Gaming in Southeastern Massachusetts
- The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has received a decision of land-in-trust from the U.S. Department of Interior and has broken ground for a gaming establishment in Taunton
- A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that the Department of Interior did not have the proper authority to make the land-in-trust decision. The Department of Interior has filed a motion for a reconsideration of this ruling and the Bureau of Indian Affairs is reviewing its land-in-trust decision.
- The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has certain rights and responsibilities under the Compact regarding a Tribal Gaming facility
The Tribal-State Compact
The Expanded Gaming Act provided a window until July 31, 2012 for the Governor to negotiate and the Legislature to approve a “compact” with one or more Indian tribes for the right to operate a casino in Southeastern Massachusetts.
On July 30, 2012, with the approval of the Legislature, the Governor signed a compact with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. The Compact was returned to the Governor’s Office from the U.S. Department of Interior and was renegotiated.
On March 20, 2013, Governor Deval Patrick and Chairman Cedric Cromwell announced that a gaming Compact between the Commonwealth and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe had been signed. This compact has since been approved by the U.S. Department of Interior.
On September 18, 2015, the United States Department of the Interior approved the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s application for land-in-trust, including 151 acres in Taunton approved for gaming use.
On March 15, 2016, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe presented the Massachusetts Gaming Commission with plans regarding First Light Casino and Resort in Taunton.
On April 5, 2016, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe broke ground on the First Light Casino and Resort in Taunton.
On July 28, 2016, in the case Littlefield et al. vs. United States Department of Interior, a judge in U.S. District Court ruled that the Department of Interior did not have the authority to approve the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s application for land-in-trust. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is now reviewing its land-in-trust decision, and construction in Taunton has been put on hold.
At a time deemed appropriate, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission may engage in a public discussion to further our review of what course of action will be in the short and long-term best interests of Southeastern Mass. and the Commonwealth.
MassGaming’s Regulatory Authority and Responsibility
The Commonwealth has the authority and responsibility to regulate the gaming operation under the Compact, and may exercise its regulatory role through the MGC or other state entities upon written notice from the Governor to the Tribe.
Pursuant to the Compact, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has a number of rights and responsibilities related to regulating the gaming enterprise and facility. These rights and responsibilities are outlined in the following document:
These provisions implicitly recognize the sovereignty of the Tribe and that by entering into this Compact the Tribe has voluntarily subjected itself to state oversight according to the terms of the agreement.