Friday, March 21, 2008

Massachusetts Lawmakers Block Governor's Casino Plan

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Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's plan for three mega-casinos was formally defeated yesterday by the state's House of Representatives by a vote of 106-48, leaving for now the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe as the only group moving forward on casino plans in that state.

It is likely that casino proposals will be put forward next year and possibly proposals for slot machines at the state's four racetracks may still be discussed in this legislative year.

The House vote on Thursday followed a vote on Wednesday by the Joint Committee on Emerging Technologies and Economic Development that did not recommend the casino plan.

Two federally-recognized tribes in Massachusetts, the Mashpee Wampanoag and the Aquinnah Wampanoag remain eligible to pursue casinos under the same federal Indian gaming law that allowed the Mohegan tribe to open their casino in Connecticut.

The Mashpees are working with the Mohegan's former business partners to develop a casino but the Aquinnahs have not made public their plans since they had intended to bid for one of the three commercial casino licenses under the governor's proposal.

Daniel O’Connell, secretary of housing and economic development, said in his testimony that the Aquinnah tribe bargained away some of its casino rights during a previous administration under former Governor Weld.

“We feel our IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) rights are still intact,” said Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, chairwoman of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe.