Compact Between Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and Gov. Deval Patrick Approved by Default

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By Abim Thomas and Christopher J. Somma

The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs allowed the 45-day review period to lapse without issuing a decision, thereby approving a compact between the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and Gov. Deval Patrick for a $500 million casino in Taunton despite its violation of federal Indian Casino law. 

Kevin Washburn, in a letter dated January 6, 2014, stated “[w]e caution the parties that in implementing the compact, they should be applying its provisions in a manner that does not directly relate to the operation of Class III gaming activities, and thus avoid any potential violation of (the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) regarding the limited scope of tribal-state gaming compacts.” 

These concerns relate to the state’s attempt to regulate a Class II casino, which is considered a high-stakes bingo or so-called bingo slots.  Federal law gives tribes and the National Indian Gaming Commission the authority for these types of casinos. 

However, in the event Massachusetts were to license a commercial casino in the same region, the tribe would be entitled to offer Class III games which includes Las Vegas-style slot machines and table games without paying any state revenue.  The tribe’s land in trust application remains under review by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.        

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The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs allowed the 45-day review period to lapse without issuing a decision, thereby approving a compact between the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and Gov. Deval Patrick for a $500 million casino in Taunton despite its violation of federal Indian Casino law. 

Kevin Washburn, in a letter dated January 6, 2014, stated “[w]e caution the parties that in implementing the compact, they should be applying its provisions in a manner that does not directly relate to the operation of Class III gaming activities, and thus avoid any potential violation of (the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) regarding the limited scope of tribal-state gaming compacts.” 

These concerns relate to the state’s attempt to regulate a Class II casino, which is considered a high-stakes bingo or so-called bingo slots.  Federal law gives tribes and the National Indian Gaming Commission the authority for these types of casinos. 

However, in the event Massachusetts were to license a commercial casino in the same region, the tribe would be entitled to offer Class III games which includes Las Vegas-style slot machines and table games without paying any state revenue.  The tribe’s land in trust application remains under review by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.