By Robert Crawford and Eleanor C. Simon
Region C, the Southeastern Massachusetts region, had previously been closed to commercial bids for over a year while the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe pursued its land-in-trust application with the federal government and the compact process with the Commonwealth. In mid-April, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission made the decision to open Region C up to commercial bids. Here are a few updates in Region C:
Message from Chairman Crosby on Region C
- Chairman Crosby posted a blog on May 14 on the Commission’s website in an attempt, as he described, to clarify misunderstandings about the Commission’s decision on Region C and the authority under which the Commission is operating to make such decision. The Chairman first discussed the two paths provided for Region C in the expanded gaming legislation. The first path is the Commission’s obligation to open Region C to commercial bidders if the Legislature did not approve a Compact by July 31, 2012 (which it did, although it was later rejected) or if the Commission concludes that the Tribe will not ever be awarded land-in-trust (such application is currently under consideration). The second path is the Commission’s discretion to open Region C to commercial bidders at any time which is rooted in the “broad authority” given to the Commission to award up to one casino in each of the three regions, including Region C.
- The Chairman clarified that the Commission is not taking a position on the Tribe’s ability to take land-in trust, but rather is opening up Region C to commercial bidders under the second path – i.e. the Commission’s broad and general authority to award a casino in the Region when it concludes it may be appropriate to do so. At the end of the commercial application process, the Commission will make a decision on the award of a license in Region C based “on the quality of the applications and the totality of the surrounding economic and competitive situation as they appear.” The Tribe’s land-in-trust application will be one such factor the Commission will consider.
- The Chairman noted that the Commission is weighing what can be opposing factors – on the one hand, the Legislature’s belief that three casinos is the ideal number for the Commission and on the other, the Legislature’s clear intention that Region C should not fall behind Regions A and B in the gaming process.
- The Commission’s decision last month to open Region C has been met with mixed reaction. Commercial developers interested in Region C have obviously supported the Commission’s decision, while Cedric Cromwell, the Tribe’s Chairman has said that the Commission’s decision “makes no sense” and would “essentially ignore” the Legislative intent of the expanded gaming legislation.
Upcoming Meetings and Sessions Related to Region C
- The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies of the Massachusetts Legislature scheduled a public hearing to consider the proposed revised Compact between the Commonwealth and the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. The Compact under consideration was agreed to by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Governor Patrick administration in March of this year but requires approval by a simple majority of the Massachusetts Legislature (and then approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs) before the deal is final. Read more about the proposed Compact and the term changes from the previously rejected Compact here.
- On May 16, in the next regularly scheduled public meeting of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the Commission will discuss the application process and timeline for Region C. The Commission will attempt to create a timeline for the commercial bids to both ensure applicants and the Commission have sufficient time in the Region C application process but also attempt to prevent Region C was falling too far behind Regions A and B.
Mashpee Wampanoag Updates
- The Mashpee Wampanoag have released new renderings of their planned tribal casino in Taunton. Pictures can be found on the Tribe’s Facebook page. In an interview with the Boston Globe, Tribal Chairman Cromwell states about the proposal: “There’s a lot of engineering, there’s a lot of traffic mitigation involved in that design, there’s a lot of environmental mitigation. When you look at that architectural rendering, it speaks to many different fronts.”