Skip to main content

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Could See Its Taunton Casino Built if Congress Passes Newly-Filed Bill

Despite the fact that it still seems like a long shot, there is a change for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to see its 900-room hotel casino project brought to life. The future of the proposed tribal casino will depend on the Massachusetts Congress which will have to decide whether or not to pass a bill under which the legal challenge to the above-mentioned Native American nation would be put to an end.

Earlier this week, US Representatives William Keating and Joseph P. Kennedy III introduced a bill, which would give the green light to a federal agency to take land into trust on behalf of the Indian tribe. The proposed piece of legislation is pretty similar to the one filed by Representative Keating on March 9th, 2018, which did not get the Congress’ approval.

Almost three years ago, Taunton anti-casino activists started a legal fight against the tribe. At the beginning of February 2016, 24 local residents filed a lawsuit in US District Court in Boston, with them seeking to eliminate the approval granted by the federal agency to the casino project. According to them, the purpose of the casino approval is to eliminate the regulatory and tax jurisdiction held by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the County of Bristol and the City of Taunton on the land.

A federal court judge ruled in favor of the campaigners in July 2016.

New Bill Would Favor the Indian Tribe Casino Project

Unfortunately for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, the difficulties on the way of its hotel casino project also brought some financial problems. At the end of November 2018, Genting Malaysia Berhad, the company which has been backing the casino proposal of the tribal nation, reported a financial loss of $400 million in the third quarter of 2018. At the time it announced the loss, the company also shared that if an appropriate bill greenlighting a Taunton casino is passed by the Congress, this could help it fix the financial problem.

Only a few days after the third-quarter loss was revealed by Genting Malaysia Berhad, the tribe’s chairman, Cedric Cromwell, issued a statement describing the piece of legislation as crucial for the tribe. He also warned that the Native American tribal nation could lose everything it has achieved since its federal recognition in 2007 in case that the Congress does not enact the proposed bill.

The major problem for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is whether is eligible to have the federal government to take land into trust as an Indian reservation on its behalf. The Indian Reorganization Act dated 1934 gave the green light to the US Secretary of the Interior to do that, as the original purpose of such an act was to secure Indian lands from encroachments.

However, the Carcieri v. Salazar decision of the US Supreme Court in 2009 states that land can be taken into trust by the Secretary of the Interior only in case that the tribe was officially recognized as such by the federal government at the time when the Indian Reorganization Act was passed. Unfortunately, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe got its recognition as an Indian tribal nation in 2007.

 Author: Harrison Young

Harrison Young is an experienced writer, who started his career almost 8 years ago. Prior to joining our team at CasinoGamesPro, he worked as an editor for a small magazine.