Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Trying To Revive Its Massachusetts Casino Project

Written By Katarina Vojvodic on August 29, 2023
Flag of Taunton Massachusetts with Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe seal and tribal casino

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Gaming Authority asked to meet with the Taunton City Council to discuss a new development proposal for First Light Resort & CasinoTaunton Daily Gazette reported.

The $1 billion proposal was put on hold after breaking ground in 2016 when opponents won the first round in what later became a prolonged legal battle. The Tribe initially planned to build a casino resort in the City of Taunton in Southeastern Massachusetts, 40 miles south of Boston.

The Tribe is ready to proceed with developing new economic opportunities

Earlier this month, Tribal Gaming Authority Chief Financial Officer Jim Erenzo sent a letter to the City Council saying they were ready to proceed with the project. He referred to the Taunton casino as the “Intergovernmental Agreement Project” (IGA project). Erenzo wrote:

“Despite a host of delays outside the control of the Gaming Authority, we are ready to proceed with developing new economic opportunities in the City that we believe will provide a financially solid pathway to the IGA project.”

Erenzo also mentioned that the new interim project would “impact the timing and scope” of the casino project.

According to The Gazette, Mayor Shaunna O’Connell’s office confirmed that representatives from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Gaming Authority will meet with the Taunton City Council at a date yet to be established.

What did the initial casino plan include?

According to the original plan, the $1 billion First Light Resort & Casino project included:

  • 3,000 slot machines
  • 150 table games
  • 40 poker tables
  • Fine dining restaurants, food court with an international buffet, 24-hour cafe
  • Three 15-story, 300-room luxury hotels
  • Lounge and performance stage
  • Indoor pool
  • Nine retail stores
  • 31,000 square-foot multi-purpose function room
  • Five meeting rooms
  • Spa and water park

The interim project would also create hundreds of jobs in construction and permanent workers.

But plans to build a $1 billion tribal casino resort remain on hold.

Why was the development of Massachusetts in East Taunton put on hold?

A group of Taunton residents filed multiple complaints to prevent the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe from building a casino in Massachusetts.

In 2015, the US Dept. of the Interior (DOI) took 321 acres of land in Mashpee and Taunton into trust.

In a February 2022 suit, the anti-casino petitioners argued that the Biden administration’s decision supporting the Tribe’s reservation was unlawful because the Tribe wasn’t eligible for a reservation as it wasn’t federally recognized in 1934 when the federal Indian Reorganization Act became law. The Tribe wasn’t officially recognized until 2007.

The Tribe broke ground on what was to be named the First Light casino in 2016. But delayed construction plans as casino opponents filed their complaint that same year.

The DOI prevailed in that matter in February 2023 when a federal district court judge ruled against a group of Taunton residents, finding the DOI acted adequately.

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Katarina Vojvodic

Katarina Vojvodic is a lead writer for PlayUSA who lives in Toronto. Vojvodic provides coverage of the US gambling industry with a focus on US online casinos. Previously, she covered Ontario’s online gambling industry for Vojvodic holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Belgrade. Outside working hours, she can be found near the water with her husband and their two kids.

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