With support and opposition coming from members of both parties, the House on Wednesday voted 115-38 to approve a gaming compact sought by Gov. Deval Patrick and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, which has plans to build a casino in Taunton.
A pair of representatives from New Bedford, where another commercial.developer, KG Urban Enterprises, hopes to build a resort casino, ripped the proposal, saying it could leave taxpayers with no money from the proposed casino and delay casino development in southeastern Massachusetts.
Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee Chairman Rep. Joseph Wagner urged the House to approve the compact, predicting it will be acceptable to the federal government, includes important protections for taxpayers, and will require 17 percent of tribal gaming revenues to flow to the state as long as the Taunton casino has no other competitors in the southeastern region.
According to state records, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe reported paying more than $313,000 in 2013 to four lobbying groups.
Some lawmakers opposed to the compact predicted the federal government would once again reject the compact. The Bureau of Indian Affairs in October 2012 rejected the first deal negotiated between Patrick officials and the tribe. The governor submitted a renegotiated contract to the Legislature in March that lawmakers sat on for months while casino applicants bidding for licenses in two other regions advanced through the regulatory process.
Two Reps predict BIA will reject new compact
Reps. Antonio Cabral and Keiko Orrall predicted the new compact would be rejected, like the first compact Gov. Patrick negotiated with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe.
Without an understanding of how the tribe will get land placed into trust, the southeast is at a "distinct disadvantage" in the competition to build casinos in Massachusetts, said Orrall, adding that she represents the area of Taunton where the casino would be built.
"There is no legal obligation to move forward with the compact at this time," Orrall said. Taunton Rep. Shaunna O'Connell said she supports the compact and said that if a compact is not in place and a tribal casino moved ahead in the region, the state will not be entitled to any revenue from the facility.
The compact is the only vehicle for receiving revenue if a tribal casino moves forward. "We're talking about $2.5 billion over the long term and I certainly don't want to lose out on that kind of money," O'Connell said.