Governor Deval Patrick plans to sign a casino compact with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe at the Massachusetts State House on Monday, July 30, according to a media release today from Cedric Cromwell, the tribe’s chairman and president. With the help of outside consultants, Patrick negotiated the compact with the tribe, and the Legislature passed it without making any changes.
It cleared the Senate on Thursday, July 26 by a 27-9 vote, and passed the House July 18 by 120-32.
The tribe has plans to construct a $500 million resort casino in the Liberty and Union Industrial Park at the intersection of Routes 24 and 140 in Taunton. The project includes plans for a casino, hotels, restaurants, entertainment and a water park, and is estimated by the tribe to create 1,000 new construction jobs and 2,500 permanent jobs, with an annual payroll of $80 million.
Taunton voters approved the proposal in a nonbinding referendum on June 9, and the tribe has negotiated a separate agreement with Taunton that 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.
Under the compact, the tribe has agreed to pay the state 21.5 percent of its gross gaming revenue in exchange for the state’s support for its pending applications with the federal government to take land into trust in Taunton and Mashpee. (Last November, Patrick signed a gaming bill allowing 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. According to the bill, commercial casinos will be required to pay 25 percent of gross gaming revenue.)
Once it’s signed by Patrick, the compact will be placed before the U.S. Department of Interior. The federal government will review the deal to ensure that it strikes an appropriate balance and the tribe is not being asked to forfeit too many of its rights, according Patrick administration officials. The Bureau of Indian Affairs would need to approve the land in-trust for the tribe before a casino could open, a sticking point for compact opponents who worry that southeastern Massachusetts will be frozen out of the developing casino industry if land in trust talks drag on and are unsuccessful.
Holland & Knight, which helped Patrick negotiate the contract, has registered as lobbyists to help the Patrick administration with land in trust talks at the federal level.
In a statement released Thursday night, after the Senate sent the compact to his desk, Patrick said: “I thank the Legislature for approving the Compact with the Mashpee Wampanoags. This is an important milestone and a good deal for both the Commonwealth and the Tribe. It respects the inherent rights of the Tribe while adhering to the principles set forth in the Expanded Gaming Act. Now we turn our attention to the federal government and final approval of the Compact and the Tribe’s land in trust application.”