EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

July 5, 2014

Casino repeal vote leaves tribal plans up in the air

BOSTON (AP) — With voters to consider repealing Massachusetts’ controversial casino law in November, local officials and gambling experts say there’s still uncertainty around what becomes of plans floated by two federally recognized American Indian tribes.

The Mashpee Wampanoags want to build a $500 million resort casino in an industrial park in Taunton, a city 37 miles south of Boston, assuming it gets federal approval to take the land into trust. The Aquinnah Wampanoags, meanwhile, want to turn an unfinished community center on its tribal lands on Martha’s Vineyard into a gambling hall with high stakes bingo and poker machines.

Repeal the Casino Deal, the anti-casino group that proposed the ballot question, says it’s confident a successful repeal of the law would spell the end for these tribe-backed plans.

The group says the 2012 casino deal reached between the Mashpee tribe and Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration includes language specifically negating the plan if slot machines and table games like blackjack, craps and roulette become illegal again as a result of a successful repeal of the 2011 casino law. The law authorized the opening of at least three Las Vegas-style casinos and one slot parlor in the state.

As to the Aquinnah, Repeal the Casino Deal says the tribe long ago forfeited its rights to open a casino.

Under a 1983 accord, the tribe took ownership of 400 acres on the western tip of Martha’s Vineyard but agreed that the state’s jurisdiction would never be “impaired or otherwise altered” and the tribe would not “exercise sovereign jurisdiction” over the lands. That agreement is central to the state’s pending federal lawsuit seeking to block the tribe’s casino plan.

Casino opponents say voters should have the chance to weigh in on the casino law, which was approved by the legislature and signed into law by the governor.

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