In a landmark decision, early Friday evening the U.S. Department of the Interior approved a land into trust application submitted by the Mashpee Wampananog for land designated for their Project First Light Resort & Casino in the Bristol County city of Taunton, Massachusetts.
According to a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) statement, land into trust applications were approved by the government for the transfer of approximately 151 acres of land in Taunton and 170 acres in Mashpee for the tribe. The historic decision effectively giving the tribe the green light on its $500 million gambling casino in East Taunton received positive reactions from local officials including Taunton Mayor Thomas Hoye Jr. who said, “Today is a historic day for our city and its future,” as well as Cedric Cromwell, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Chairman, who added, “Today, history has come full circle. This is truly a glorious, monumental day – a day many of our people, both live and deceased, have spent their entire lives working to establish,” according to CapeCod.com.
A letter received by the tribe last month indicated a decision was imminent, but contained no implication of how the BIA would vote regarding the land designation which has been in process for several years. The approval effectively eliminates one of the last obstacles facing the Wampanoag tribe from proceeding with the casino, which according to State Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton is, “a game-changer for the city of Taunton and southeastern Massachusetts.” According to Pacheco, “Federal officials have estimated this project to create 3,500 full- and part-time jobs, as well as 287 construction jobs.”
In addition to the much needed jobs for what Taunton Police Chief Edward Walsh called an “economically depressed city ,” upon opening of the Project First Light casino resort, Taunton is guaranteed $8 million in annual slot machine revenue as outlined in a prior tribal-municipal “intergovernmental agreement, which according to Walsh promises his department the bulk of public-safety, financial benefits.
The city of Taunton became the tribe’s targeted location for a casino in 2012, after a 2011 state casino law authorized a third and final resort casino license.
First Light Casino Resort plans include a water park, retail stores, three hotels and an events center.