The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe have been working on creating a new casino in the Taunton area of Massachusetts, spending as much as $1 billion on Project First Light Resort & Casino. The tribe has faced strong opposition to the project, with property owners in Taunton suing to try and stop the tribe from building the casino resort. The property owners have now went one step further in their efforts, asking the court on Friday to stop construction of the project, even if just for a temporary time frame.
An injunction was filed in federal court by residents to renew their efforts to stop the large gaming project, a venue that should be open by summer of 2017. If a judge grants the injunction, the tribe would be forced to stop construction, at least until the lawsuit has been resolved. This could take several years. The tribe already broke ground on the venue back in April and began to work on the parcel of land for the resort, consisting of 150 acres.
The filing stated that the tribe has already begun to demolish buildings, cut trees and used heavy equipment for grading the land. The property can now be described fairly as a moonscape. Property owners are claiming that the significant changes to the property are causing irreparable harm.
Investors of the project as well as tribal leaders remain confident that they will win in court and have chosen to begin construction despite the fact that legal intervention could take place. The legal move by the property owners of Taunton takes place just one month after the Massachusetts Gaming Commission rejected plans for a casino to be constructed in Brockton, which gave the Mashpee tribe exclusive rights to operate a casino in the southeastern area of the state.
The decision by the commission helped to avoid two large casinos being constructed within a close proximity to each other but also had the risk of the lawsuit ruining the Taunton plan and leaving the area without a casino in place.
In the lawsuit by the residents of Taunton, the federal government is accused of acting unlawfully in 2015 when approval was given to the tribe after a request was made to designate the property in Taunton as a sovereign reservation which made way for the casino.