July 13, 2012
BOSTON — The Mashpee Wampanoag Native American tribe officially signed a deal with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick for the exclusive right to operate a casino in the Southeastern region of the state on July 12. It's the most concrete development so far in the race to establish casinos in Massachusetts.
In a press conference outside his office, Patrick applauded the agreement, saying, “We are very pleased with the deal. It’s a good thing for the tribe, and a good thing for the Commonwealth.”
Under the compact, Massachusetts would get 21.5 percent of the revenue from the casino, which the tribe wants to build in East Taunton. That’s a more lucrative compact than other states have managed to negotiate with Native American tribes. But it’s still below what a commercial casino would have to pay.
The deal does not necessarily mean the dice will be rolling in Taunton any time soon. The tribe still must get federal permission to use the property for a casino, through a process called "land in trust" that could take years. Meantime, other developers may line up to seek a casino in that region of the state, one of three regions the Legislature has designated for casino development.
But Patrick said the benefits of having a tribal casino outweigh the risks.
"There has been some worry out there that because the land in trust process can take a long time, that the other regions' advancement towards having a casino would overtake the tribal facility over time. I’m not sure that’s the case, but the risk on the other side is if we don’t allow some reasonable period of time, we could end up with two casinos in the region, which I think everyone thinks is saturation," he said.
The compact will now go to the Massachusetts Legislature for approval, and then to the federal government.