Mashpee Tribe, State Gaming Deal Denied

The federal agency charged with protecting Native American tribes from unbalanced casino revenue sharing deals with state governments has turned back the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe's gaming compact with the state of Massachusetts.

The announcement was made in press releases from the tribe and Gov. Deval L. Patrick issued three minutes apart just before 5 PM this evening.

Approval of the compact by the US Department of Interior is a required step in the tribe's pursuit of Indian gaming at a resort casino in Taunton.

The deal can be renegotiated with the governor, reapproved by the state Legislature, and resubmitted to the US Bureau of Indian Affairs, according to the tribe's press release.

"We believe that these issues can be resolved quickly and cooperatively, and the Compact can be re-submitted to the BIA for swift action," Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe said in a statement.

The governor, too, pledged to return to the negotiating table with the tribe as a "partner."

Negotiated by representatives of the tribe and the governor this summer and approved by the state Legislature just before a deadline for the tribe to have the deal in place, the tribe's promise to pay the state 21.5 percent of gaming revenue was widely thought to be among the most generous in the country.

"By rejecting the agreement on the grounds of the revenue share and our acceptance of the Tribe's request to separately negotiate its tribal hunting and fishing rights, Interior is substituting its judgment for the Tribe’s," Gov. Patrick said in a statement.

"I remain committed to striking an appropriate balance which protects the best interests of the Commonwealth and the Tribe. I believe our Compact struck that balance. We will try to do so again," he said.

Review of the gaming compact is a step entirely separate from BIA's consideration of the tribe's application to create a reservation in Taunton and Mashpee. The reservation proposal is still under review, according to the tribe.

The Interior department has not verified the announcement. No press release was issued from the federal agency explaining the decision and a call to the department press office this evening was not answered.

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