A week after the Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted to open the Southeastern casino zone to commercial bidding, ending the special status the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe had enjoyed as the only entity allowed to apply for a license in that zone, one house of the legislature is sitting on the compact between the tribe and the state.
The second go at a tribal state compact between Massachusetts and the tribe for the tribe’s land in Taunton has been languishing in a House subcommittee without hearing since Governor Deval Patrick forwarded it to the legislature on April 1.
The Senate would like to hear the compact, according to Gale Candaras, Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.
“The House does not have an interest in a hearing on the gaming compact,” she said. “I would certainly want to hear it. These folks have come a long way. They’ve worked very hard for this. I would certainly be willing to hear it.”
House Speaker Robert DeLeo said that he would like for the House to move soon on the compact. However, he is also frustrated at the pace the gaming commission has set for granting licenses.
“I had hoped that by this time, if something could not have been worked out, that it would be sent out for the process that anyone can bid. Having said that, I think that there’s a real strong concern that we could end up with four casinos, and the Wampanoags could get one of them and the state could get nothing. So I fully understand that.”
State law that authorized three casino resorts and one slots parlor in the state set aside the Southeastern gaming zone for a federally recognized tribe, as long as the tribe could meet certain conditions, including a compact that was acceptable to both the legislature and the Bureau of Indian Affairs—and to be able to put the land into federal trust as reservation land.
The BIA rejected the first compact because it said the state had asked for too large a percentage of the casino revenue, 21.5 percent.
The second version, agreed to last month, creating a sliding scale of from 17 percent to 21.5 percent, depending on other factors, particularly the development of other casinos in the state.