Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Feds Hold Hearing On Mashpee Wampanoag Casino Plan

Feather News

In accordance with Bureau of Indian Affairs regulations, a public hearing was held last night on the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe's plan to establish reservation land in the towns of Mashpee and Middleboro, Massachusetts.

State lawmakers struck down the governor's commercial casino plan last week but the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, and quite possibly the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe, is moving forward to establish a casino under federal Indian gaming laws.

The tribe is requesting the federal government to take into trust 539 acres in Middleboro - on which they intend to build a casino-hotel resort - and 140 acres in Mashpee.

A spokesperson for the tribe said the casino would be built in two phases, beginning with a 1,000-room hotel and a casino that would include a 600,000-square foot casino with 4,000 slot machines and 200 table games, retail shops, restaurants and an event center. The second phase would include a golf course among other amenities.

Gov. Patrick was not at the hearing but said his administration is working closely with the tribe, according to reports.

The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe planned on applying for one of the commercial licenses proposed under Governor Deval Patrick's casino plan but since that plan was voted down by Massachusetts lawmakers last week it is unclear what path the Aquinnahs would take. Daniel O’Connell, secretary of housing and economic development, said in testimony last week that the Aquinnah tribe bargained away some of its casino rights during a previous administration under former Governor Weld but the Aquinnahs disagree. “We feel our IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) rights are still intact,” said Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, chairwoman of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe.

A second hearing on the Mashpee Wampanoag's land-into-trust application will be held at 6 pm tonight at Mashpee High School.