The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has secured an option to a 58-acre parcel of land in southeastern Massachusetts where it plans to build a $500 million destination resort casino.
The tribe announced the land deal in a press release on Friday, March 23. The 58-acre property is adjacent to a 77-acre parcel, which the tribe also has an option to purchase, bringing the total property in Taunton under option to around 135 acres. Ninety-three acres of the total parcel are upland build-able acres, the release said. The 58-acre parcel is owned by affiliates of the Woburn, Massachusetts-based Maggiore Companies. The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe entered into a formal option agreement earlier this month to purchase the 77 acres in Taunton for $5.3 million, paying $200,000 for a one-year option on the parcel, The Herald News reported March 17. Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell could not be reached to confirm the price.
Cromwell said in the press release that the newest land acquisition is another tangible step toward building a first class destination resort in Taunton. “Working together with city officials, residents, and local business owners, we are putting together the resources to make this project a success for our Tribe and the people of Taunton,” Cromwell said. “We look forward to continuing to keep the public informed as plans on this exciting project progress.”
Cromwell and Taunton Mayor Thomas Hoye, Jr. announced plans for the resort casino at the end of February. Hoye has endorsed the tribe’s plans to develop a first class destination resort with a casino, a hotel, fine and casual dining, entertainment space and other amenities. Hoye sees the proposal as an economic opportunity for the city and region, and estimates the casino will generate millions in revenue that can help improve city schools, hire police officers and firefighters, improve infrastructure and attract new businesses. “I’ve been impressed from the beginning with the Tribe’s commitment to an inclusive process and a real partnership with Taunton,” Hoye said. “Together, we’ll be meeting with residents across the city about this project and about a long-term vision for our community.”
In an effort to be transparent and create an open dialogue with Taunton residents, Hoye has set up a special section on the city’s website where he has posted almost two dozen public documents for the residents to review. The first document is the gaming bill called “An Act Establishing expanded Gaming in the Commonwealth” signed by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick last November to allow up to three resort-style casinos and one slots parlor to be licensed in the state. The tribe is working against a rigorous deadline to comply with all of the requirements demanded by the state’s gaming bill. It must meet a July 31, 2012, deadline for compact negotiations. If there is no compact by then and the state gaming commission determined that the tribe won’t have land into trust, the commission can seek bids from other casino developers in the southeastern part of the state.
A March 12 letter from Cromwell to Hoye and the city council requests a special referendum to be held for Taunton residents to approve the tribe’s proposed casino. The referendum is mandated by the gaming bill. Two days later, Hoye responded that the city council had voted unanimously to schedule the referendum on Saturday, June 9. A March 12 agreement between the tribe and the city says, “…in negotiating the intergovernmental agreement and in holding a special election, Taunton will incur substantial costs and that the Tribe desires to reimburse Taunton for such costs in accordance with the terms hereof.” The most recent posting on is a copy of a check from the tribe to the City of Taunton for $340,000 to $40,000 to cover the cost of the referendum, and $300,000 “for the purpose of reimbursing Taunton for the cost of determining the impact of the project and negotiating and intergovernmental agreement, including without limitation the costs of outside consultants, outside legal council and other such similar costs.”
The agreement also stipulates that the tribe has adopted a tribal ordinance that “discloses the right of the Tribe to assert sovereign immunity as a defense in an action brought against the Tribe.” It promises to pass a tribal council resolution of “limited waiver of Sovereign immunity in favor of Taunton to disputes arising under this Agreement,” and agrees that state laws will govern the agreement and the tribe will submit disputes to the jurisdiction of state courts.