Massachusetts Casino Opponents Trying Yet Another Blocking Move

Written By Derek Helling on March 16, 2023
massachusetts casinos lawsuit first light taunton

By now, more Bay Staters have probably forgotten that when they legalized brick-and-mortar Massachusetts casinos, they actually authorized three such facilities.

The potential addition of a casino in Taunton to the scene that already includes Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield has faced one delay tactic after another for years.

It looks like that will continue. A group of citizens in the region are determined to exhaust all options to prevent the lights from ever being turned on at First Light.

Resistance to Massachusetts casinos goes back years

If you can say anything about the “Littlefields,” they are not easily dismayed. The group of Taunton residents has filed multiple complaints, all aimed at one goal; to prevent the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe from completing construction on a casino in southeastern Massachusetts.

The dispute goes back seven years now. In 2015, the US Dept. of the Interior (DOI) took 321 acres of land in the area into trust for the Mashpee Wampanoag. The Tribe had gained federal recognition just eight years prior.

Because of the youth of that status, the Littlefields argued that the DOI couldn’t take the land into trust for the Mashpee Wampanoag. The Tribe broke ground on its casino in 2016 but stalled construction efforts when the Littlefields filed their complaint that same year. The DOI prevailed in that matter last month.

According to the Associated Press, a federal district court judge rejected the Littlfields’ argument, finding the DOI acted properly. Instead of appealing that decision, the Littlefields are starting over from scratch.

What the Littlefields have to say now

The main argument of the new lawsuit; that the DOI erred when it took the land into trust for the Mashpee Wampanoag, remains unchanged. The plaintiffs have just modified how they are making that argument.

Instead of claiming the Mashpee Wampanoag weren’t eligible for federal recognition, the new complaint argues the DOI’s environmental impact assessment is flawed, Asad Jung of the Cape Cod Times reports. In plainer language, the Littlefields claim the casino will disrupt the Taunton area more than the DOI believes.

At the very least, this new action could delay the resumption of construction some further months if not years. The original litigation along with subsequent appeals could occupy that much time. Furthermore, there’s the chance that the Littlefields could simply adjust their strategy if they face defeat again.

It’s unclear when the Littlefields will consider their options exhausted. At this point, it seems they are a most determined foe.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including legislation and litigation in the gaming industry. He enjoys reading hundreds of pages of a gambling bill or lawsuit for his audience. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa.

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