Gov frustrated by rejected tribal casino deal

BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) — It’s back to the drawing board for a tribal casino deal, also known as a compact, that’s been rejected by the federal government. The compact would have given the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe exclusive rights to build a casino in the southeast region of the state. The state and tribe were optimistic that the federal government would approve their negotiated deal, but now both parties are frustrated that they’ve been turned down. 

“It’s bizarre,” said Governor Deval Patrick.  “So very frustrating for us and for the tribe that the Department would basically substitute their own judgment.”

The U.S. Interior Department said the compact required the tribe to return too much of its gambling revenue to the state – 21.5 percent – The highest figure ever negotiated between a state and Native American tribe.  But it’s still less than what commercial casino developers are required to give the state. Patrick says he and the tribe will now go back to the negotiation table.

“We’re going to go back to the table and see,” said Patrick.  “I’m not forecasting any position.  I’m going to tell you again, that both we and the tribe think the bureau was wrong to substitute their judgment for that of well-informed and well-supported parties.”

Any future compact negotiated by Patrick and the tribe must be approved by the Legislature.  Patrick is cognizant that lawmakers will not approve every compact he sends them and as time drags on, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission could issue a casino license in southeastern Massachusetts to a commercial developer.

For now, however, the Commission is being patient.

“I don’t believe anybody on the Commission is trying to rush to make any assumptions about this recent finding, I think we have to wait and see,” said Massachusetts Gaming Commissioner Enrique Zuniga.

Federal officials said gaming compacts must not stray too far from non-gaming issues and must primarily benefit tribes, both of which they believed the Massachusetts compact failed to do.

Copyright 2014 WWLP TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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