Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Approves Tribal-State Compact

Tribe will pay 21.5 percent of gross gaming revenues to the state

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council authorized Chairman Cedric Cromwell to sign a tribal-state compact on July 11, a crucial step in the tribe’s plan to build a $500 million destination resort casino in the City of Taunton in southeastern Massachusetts.

Earlier in the day Governor Deval Patrick announced in a written statement that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts had reached a tentative agreement with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on a tribal-state gaming compact that outlines the terms under which the tribe can operate a gaming facility. The compact will now go to the Massachusetts legislature, and if approved, to the U.S. Department of Interior for final approval.

Cromwell called the compact agreement “a monumental step” toward achieving the tribe’s economic development goals and protecting its sovereignty. “This is a great day for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the City of Taunton, and all of Southeastern Massachusetts,” Cromwell said. “This is the first step in an economic development plan that will bring long-term prosperity to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe while also bringing much needed job opportunities and revenue to the Commonwealth.” The casino will allow the tribal government to move toward economic self-sufficiency and provide housing, health care, education, job training, cultural preservation, and conservation of natural resources for its citizens, he said.

The compact is “a good deal for everyone,” Patrick said. “This compact balances the interests of the Commonwealth with the inherent rights of the people of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. If this Compact is approved, it will allow the Mashpee Wampanoag to open a unique facility that is governed and regulated by the Tribe itself, in partnership with the state. I thank the Tribe for their good faith negotiations to reach an agreement that is in their best interests as well as those of the Commonwealth.”

Patrick signed a gaming bill last November that allows three resort casinos and one slot parlor to be developed in the state. The bill carved out a provision for one Indian resort casino and set a July 31 deadline for the tribe and legislature to ratify a gaming compact, otherwise a gaming license in southeastern Massachusetts would be up for grabs by a commercial casino developer.

The compact calls for the tribe to pay the state 21.5 percent of gross gaming revenue. Commercial casinos will be required to pay 25 percent of gross gaming revenue. By comparison, Foxwoods Resort Casino and the Mohegan Sun in nearby Connecticut pay the state 25 percent of gross revenues on slot machines only. Patrick said the 21.5 percent allocation to the state was “agreed to in consideration of concessions made by the Commonwealth.” The “concessions” include the state’s agreement to enter into the compact before the tribe’s federal land-into-trust process was completed, to advocate for compact approval by the legislature and Interior Department, and to “actively support” the tribe’s pending land-in-trust applications for Taunton and the town of Mashpee.

Among other compact provisions, the tribe agrees

  • to grant the state jurisdiction to prosecute violations of gaming laws and other crimes at the casino in state courts  “just as it can for commercial facilities”;
  • to grant the state the right to inspect the facility, all gaming activity and all related records;
  • to consent to the jurisdiction of state agencies responsible for enforcing the state worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance laws;
  • to provide employees with health care benefits that meet or exceed standards in state health care laws;
  • to operate a nonsmoking facility;
  • to contribute to the Public Health Trust Fund.

The Mashpee Tribe has entered an agreement with the City of Taunton to develop a resort casino on approximately 146 acres of land the tribe has under option in an industrial part of the City of Taunton. The plan includes a Class III gaming facility, a hotel, parking structures, restaurants, retail stores and other facilities. An agreement with Taunton calls for the tribe to pay the city about $33 million in advance and minimum annual payments of $13 million after the casino is up and running. Taunton voters approved the proposal in a nonbinding referendum on June 9.

Since May the Mashpee Tribe has announced the National Indian Gaming Commission’s approval of its gaming and the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ progress on its land in trust application through scoping meetings on its Environmental Impact Statement.

Related: Mashpee Unveils $500 Million Resort Casino Plan: ‘Project First Light’
Mashpee’s Land-Into-Trust Under BIA Review


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Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Approves Tribal-State Compact