Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe-State Gaming Compact Receives House Approval

Will the second time be the charm for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s tribal-state compact with Governor Deval L. Patrick?

The revised compact passed its first major test on Wednesday afternoon when it was approved by the Massachusetts House of Representatives by a vote of 116 to 38. The compact now moves on to the Senate for a vote. Once the compact receives approval by the Legislature, it is sent to the US Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, DC, for a 45-day review period.

Under terms of the renegotiated revenue-sharing formula in the compact the state will receive 21 percent of tribal casino revenues as long as the tribal facility is the only one operating in Massachusetts. When a commercial facility opens in one of the other two gaming regions, the revenue share will fall to 17 percent. The compact reduces the revenue share of the applicable rate by 2 percent if a slot parlor opens in southeastern Massachusetts.  The state would receive no proceeds from the tribe if a commercial casino operator were to open a facility in the southeastern Massachusetts region.

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The first pass at a compact between the tribe and the governor was initially approved by the Legislature in July 2012, but was ultimately rejected by the BIA on the grounds that it provided an excessive share of gaming revenue, 21.5 percent, to the state.

The tribe has proposed building a $500 million destination resort casino—Project First Light—near the intersection of Routes 24 and 140 in Taunton.

“We thank the members of the House for supporting this revised compact, which brings us another step closer to breaking ground on Project First Light. We believe this agreement keeps our world-class destination resort casino on track, ultimately providing thousands of jobs for southeastern Massachusetts and billions in new revenue for the Commonwealth,” tribal chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a written statement.

While approval of the compact by the state Legislature and the BIA would be a significant milestone, the tribe must still have 170 acres in Mashpee and 146 acres in Taunton taken into federal trust before it can break  ground on the massive casino project.

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