Genting Deliberating Recovery of $400 Million Investment in Massachusetts Casino After DOI Leaves Tribe High and Dry

Posted on: September 18, 2018, 06:02h. 

Last updated on: September 18, 2018, 06:04h.

Malaysian casino giant Genting says it is “deliberating the appropriate course of action” in relation to $400 million loaned to the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to build a $1 billion casino in Taunton, Massachusetts — a project that suddenly faces huge hurdles.

Mashpee Wampanoag
The Mashpee Wampanoag celebrate the 2015 decision to place land into trust that led to the declaration of the tribe as a sovereign nation, a decision that has been reversed under the Trump administration. (Image:

In a filing to Bursa Malaysia this week, the country’s stock exchange, Genting notified investors it was “working closely with the tribe to review all options available for the Group’s investment in the promissory notes as well as its recoverability.”

The full figure, including accrued interest, is $428 million, according to the filing.

On September 7, the US Department of the Interior ruled that it could not hold land in trust for the tribe, reversing a decision made by the Obama administration in 2015.

The 2015 DOI decision took 321 acres into trust for the Mashpee, later declaring it the tribe’s sovereign reservation, but the reversal has not only nullified the tribe’s hopes of building its casino, but also quashed its right to self-governance and economic self-determination.

Vote to Legalize Casinos Was to Include Mashpee

The tribe broke ground on the casino in 2016 after securing the Genting financing but the project was put on hold by a legal challenge funded by out-of-state casino developer, Neil Bluhm, who wanted to build a casino in Brockton, 15 miles away.

State residents voted to legalize casinos in 2011, creating three licensing zones. According to a pro-Mashpee editorial in the Boston Globe this week, “[state] law envisioned the tribe would operate the third and final resort casino authorized by the state, in Southeastern Massachusetts” and the Taunton casino largely had the backing of local residents.

But federal law sided with the opponents of the Taunton casino. In 2016, a US District Court Judge ruled the 2015 resolution had bypassed a Supreme Court decision known as the Carcieri Decision, which called into question the federal government’s ability to grant land in trust for tribes recognized after Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.

Bill Remains a Long Shot

The Mashpee was granted federal recognition in 2007, although it claims its ancestors have occupied the land since time immemorial. It traces its ancestry to the Indians that broke bread with the Pilgrims in the 1600s at the very first Thanksgiving.

Genting notes legislation has been introduced in Congress that would safeguard the land as a reservation for the Mashpee and potentially revive the casino project. The bill, filed in March by US Representative William Keating, is a heavy lift, but Keating believes there is hope.

“In what is often a sea of discord, I have key Republican sponsors,” he told the Boston Globe this week.

The Globe said it believed the passing of Keating’s bill should be a “a top priority” for the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation, describing the present situation as a “national embarrassment” and a “special embarrassment for Massachusetts” as the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim landing approaches.