Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mashpee Wampanoags Demand Consultation With Massachusetts Governor

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Officials of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe want to discuss casino plans with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick but one of Gov. Patrick´s cabinet members say they want the Tribe to partner with another group for a commercial casino license should gaming be expanded in the state. The following Tribes In The Media installment is a Boston Herald article discussing the Tribe´s statements about building a casino with or without the state´s cooperation.

Many believe that Massachusetts will permit expanded gambling to generate fees to partially offset projected state budget deficits. The Mashpee Wampanoags are one of two federally recognized tribes in Massachusetts. The other federally recognized tribe is the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe on Martha´s Vineyard.

Tribe: Governor won’t enter talks over Middleboro casino
By Thomas Grillo
Boston Herald
January 5, 2010

Angry that the governor has refused to meet with them, the Mashpee Wampanoags are threatening to build a casino in Middleboro and not share any revenue with the state.

“If the governor refuses to deal with us and distributes licenses to other casino operators, we won’t give the state a cent when we build a gaming facility in Southeastern Massachusetts,” tribal chairman Cedric Cromwell told the Herald.

The Mashpee Wampanoags’ push to establish a casino helped drive debate over the issue in the Bay State, but now they feel their proposal is taking a back seat, even as the Legislature is set to consider expanded gambling this spring.

The 1,500-member tribe faces several hurdles before construction can commence. Casino gambling has yet to be approved by the Legislature. And the tribe still needs federal approval to place the 500 acres it purchased in Middleboro into a trust, which would exempt it from local, state and federal rules and taxes.

Under federal law, the tribe is allowed to offer any gambling already allowed by its home state. Today, Massachusetts allows “Class II” gambling, including Las Vegas nights and Keno, bingo and poker. But to offer the more lucrative “Class III” resort-style gambling, with slot machines and table games, the state must approve expanded gambling.

Cromwell said he is frustrated that Gov. Deval Patrick has failed to respond to repeated requests for a meeting.

“We know the governor is a busy man, but it’s very important for the administration to meet with us because we are a sovereign nation,” he said.

Gregory Bialecki, Patrick’s secretary of Housing and Economic Development, said he did not know if the tribe has requested a meeting with the governor’s office.

“We are glad to meet with them,” he said. “We welcome the tribe to partner with one of the state applicants. That’s the best way to proceed so that it can be done in a collaborative - instead of an adversarial - way.”