In Massachusetts, the plan from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to construct its First Light Casino And Resort near the city of Taunton could reportedly still become a reality despite a federal judge last year ruling against a United States Department Of The Interior decision to take land into trust on behalf of the tribe for the $1 billion scheme.
According to a report from the Taunton Daily Gazette newspaper, July saw judge William Young from the United States District Court For The District Of Massachusetts rule against the federal government’s 2015 land-into-trust decision for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. This was part of the Littlefield v United States Department Of The Interior court case, which had been brought by a group of local property owners opposed to the building of the casino, and the decision saw preliminary construction at the disputed site located about 38 miles south of Boston grind to a halt.
In his ruling, Young reportedly declared that the United States Department Of The Interior had lacked the authority to approve the land-into-trust application from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe as the group had not been federally recognized at the time the landmark 1934 Indian Reorganization Act was passed. He cited the 2009 decision from the United States Supreme Court in the case of Carcieri v Salazar and claimed that tribes could only be eligible for a reservation if they had held an official relationship with the federal government at the time this legislation was ratified.
However, the United States Department Of The Interior has now reportedly revealed that it intends to issue a new decision on the tribe’s land-into-trust request for the 320-acre parcel by June 19 based on different rationale than that earlier rejected by Young. This “Category 1” foundation could see the application granted based on the idea that the tribe had been “under federal jurisdiction” in 1934, whether officially recognized or not.
“We are confident that an amended record-of-decision from the United States Department Of The Interior will reaffirm what has already been well-established and documented; we have lived on this land for thousands of years and it is only right that we remain,” read a statement from Cedric Cromwell, Chairman for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council. “We are ready to deliver over 7,000 jobs, tens of millions of dollars in critical traffic infrastructure improvements and hundreds of millions of dollars towards urban renewal in a region of Massachusetts that so desperately needs it.”
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe had originally hoped to inaugurate its First Light Resort And Casino this summer offering some 1,900 slots alongside 60 gaming tables. It explained that a favorable land-into-trust decision next month could see the development open by next summer moreover featuring a trio of 300-room hotels as well as a water park and spa, indoor pool, nine retail stores and a 31,000 sq ft multi-purpose function room.
“The firm date provided by the United States Department Of The Interior puts any false claims about further delays to rest,” read the statement from Cromwell. “We recognize that the United States Department Of The Interior has a rigorous review process but the June date at least gives us certainty there will be a decision very soon and we are confident that our undeniable historical legacy will support a favorable outcome. We’ve been challenged every step of the way and each step we have prevailed. We look forward to prevailing yet again in June.”