In a statement issued by representatives of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on Tuesday, the tribe announced that its revised application for taking land in Mashpee and Taunton into federal trust has been withdrawn, thus casting doubts on the tribe’s First Light Resort & Casino project in Taunton.
The withdrawal was revealed just before the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the Department of Interior (DOI) was to issue a ruling on the matter on Tuesday.
The DOI approved the tribe’s application for receiving 151 acres in Taunton and 170 Acres in Mashpee into trust in September 2015 and officially declared it a reservation in January the following year. However, following local opposition of the land grant from property owners, Federal Judge William Young ruled that the DOI had erred in approving the application for placing the 321 acres into trust for the Mashpee Tribe, stating it was due to a misinterpretation of the Indian Reorganization Act.
Both the DOI and the tribe filed an appeal of Young’s decision, which according to the Tuesday statement is what the tribe will now be focusing on. The decision to suspend the review request was reportedly reached after a consultation with DOI, with no details shared at this time as to why the strategy was changed. Instead, the tribe announced that they will now be investigating every legal option and re-focusing all their efforts to the appeal, while the land remains in trust.
The casino project was to be run with Genting Malaysia Bhd in return for interest income and management fees under a seven-year agreement. Genting had invested $250 million in promissory notes issued by the tribe’s Gaming Authority for the casino project, which they warned investors about last May, saying that they might lose the investment should the project be rejected by the DOI.