Taunton Casino Appeal Denial Considered a Win by Mashpee Wampanoag

Posted on: October 14, 2016, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: October 14, 2016, 12:44h.

Taunton casino Mashpee Wampanoag Massachusetts
Mashpee Wampanoag Chairman Cedric Cromwell declared a judge’s dismissal of his tribe’s pursuit of building a Taunton casino a victory. (Image: Mashpee Wampanoag/Facebook)

The Taunton casino being pushed by the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe in Massachusetts was denied a rehearing this week by the same district judge who previously ruled against the project.

In July, Massachusetts District Judge William Young said the Mashpee Wampanoag people could not build a $1 billion Indian casino in Taunton on its land because he felt the US Department of the Interior erred in designating the 151 acres as sovereign property in 2015. On October 13, Young denied the tribe’s petition for the court to reconsider, and while that would seem to be bad news, Mashpee Wampanoag says it’s actually a win.

“The United States has a full opportunity here to further address our request to have our land in trust, and we expect any setback caused by the court’s initial decision will be temporary,” Mashpee Wampanoag Chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a statement.

Young’s denial to reconsider, at least according to the tribe, opens up the case for further examination by federal authorities.

Gaming Commission Draw

Massachusetts is rapidly getting in on the casino game, as the state’s Expanded Gaming Act passed in 2011 called for the authorization of three commercial land-based casinos in three geographical regions, and one slots parlor.

Plainridge Park Casino, a venue featuring slots, video poker, and virtual table games, is already up and running.

MGM Springfield, a $950 million casino, is currently under construction, as is Steve Wynn’s $1.7 billion Boston Harbor resort.

However, Region C, an area containing Bristol, Plymouth, Nantucket, Dukes, and Barnstable counties, remains unoccupied by a gambling facility. Taunton is in Bristol County.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) voted against a $677 million Brockton casino proposal in Plymouth County from Rush Street Gaming in April. The reason for the denial is that MGC officials were worried about oversaturating the market should Mashpee’s plans move forward.

Cromwell celebrated the news at the time. “Historically, our people have been the recipients of a string of broken promises. Today is not one of those days.”

If Young hadn’t ruled against the Mashpee people, their sovereign designation would have allowed them to proceed with building a casino under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Tribes do not need the permission of state gaming agencies to commence gambling activities on sovereign land.

MGC officials say some sort of legal clarification on the Mashpee issue is needed.

“Once the legal landscape is clarified, I hope we all work diligently to respond to the economic need in that region,” MGC Commissioner Lloyd Macdonald told The Boston Globe. Macdonald was the only one of the five MGC commissioners who voted for the Brockton casino.


For the Mashpee Wampanoag case to be overturned, the US Department of the Interior will need to interject. Cromwell feels confident that will happen.

“Judge Young has now made clear that the Department of Interior is now free and fully able to consider whether the Tribe meets the criteria for re-establishing reservation land,” the Mashpee tribe said in a statement. “While Judge Young technically denied the United States’ motion for reconsideration, in doing so he gave the United States the most important thing it asked for in seeking clarification of his initial ruling.”