Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe says it has received a favorable preliminary opinion from the BIA

Tribe receives a positive letter from the Bureau of Indian Affairs
Architects rendition of the proposed Wampanoag casino in Taunton. Courtesy of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe came a step closer to having a casino today as the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) sent Tribal Leader Cedric Cromwell a positive "preliminary advisory opinion."

In a release from the tribe, Crowell called the news “Another huge step forward toward the development of a first class destination resort casino in Taunton. We look forward to creating thousands of jobs and widespread economic opportunities for our Tribe, the people of Taunton and the entire Southeastern Massachusetts region."

As talks with the Patrick administration continue over a revised gambling compact, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on Tuesday indicated it was feeling optimism about its prospects for a Taunton casino due to a new letter from the federal government. In what it called a "positive preliminary advisory opinion," the tribe said it has been informed by the Department of Interior that an analysis completed by the Office of Indian Gaming had found the tribe's land in trust application "qualified to be processed under the initial reservation exception."

According to the tribe, the exception, part of the Indian Regulatory Gaming Act, is one of the few exceptions to the ban on gaming on lands taken into trust after Oct. 17, 1988 and is intended for newly recognized tribes like the Mashpee Wampanoag, that do not have an established reservation.

The letter to the tribe was from Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Interior for Indian Affairs. The 2,600-member tribe's application for land in trust includes land in Mashpee and Taunton and tribe officials attributed the new indication from Interior to their work documenting the tribe's historic ties to both communities.

Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell supports the Taunton location, but he is being opposed by two other candidates, David Pocknett and Richard Oakley. Oakley has said he supports locating the casino resort in Middleboro.

Former disgraced Tribal Leader Glenn Marshall had originally reached an agreement with Middleboro in 2007 and two years later, moved its focus to Taunton following Cromwell's election.

The State Gaming Commission appeared ready in December to move toward a commercial casino in the southeast, but put off a decision until at least March to give the tribe “a last shot” at making progress toward a tribal gambling resort, commission Chairman Stephen Crosby said at the time.

Cromwell predicted in mid-January that the Department of Interior will allow the Mashpees to take land into federal trust for the tribe, creating a reservation eligible to host gambling, by “roughly around the end of spring, mid-summer.”

This letter from the BIA is a step in that direction.

Read a report in The Boston Globe for further details.


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