By Robert Crawford and Eleanor C. Simon
A lot has been happening in Region C, as discussed in last week’s blog post. Here are a few updates and outcomes of some recent events.
Legislative Hearing on the Compact
The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies of the Massachusetts Legislature held a public hearing on May 15 to consider the proposed revised Compact between the Commonwealth and the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. The hearing, which took place in front of a crowded room at the Statehouse, lasted for more than five hours and included testimony from representatives of Governor Patrick’s administration, leaders of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, several Massachusetts representatives and senators and representatives from commercial bidders in the region.
The Commission did not take action at the end of the hearing, but Committee Chairman Joseph Wagner indicated that the Compact will be moved forward for consideration by the full Massachusetts Legislature. A simple majority of the Legislature (and then approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs) is required for the Compact deal to be final.
Chairman Wagner emphasized the cost to the Commonwealth of having the first Compact rejected by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and sought assurances that the renegotiated Compact would not also be rejected. “We swung and missed in a pretty big way the last time around,” said Chairman Wagner. In discussing the first Compact’s rejection from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which consisted of almost twenty pages of detailed problems, he noted that “it was pretty strong in terms of the number of ways we didn’t hit the nail on the head.”
Representatives of the Patrick administration and the Tribe sought to assure the Committee that the renegotiated Compact would gain the approval of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Governor Patrick’s chief-of-staff, Brendan Ryan, told the Joint Committee that the administration had consulted with and received “constructive feedback from” officials from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Ryan also noted that the Patrick administration had met with Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn, to ensure that the renegotiated Compact would address all of the federal government’s concerns.
Like Ryan, Tribal Chairman Cecil Cromwell stated that he is optimistic of approval of the Compact and noted that “there are $2.5 billion in reasons why the compact should be taken up and approved,” by the Legislature, referring to the estimated amount of revenue the Commonwealth is predicted to receive during the 20 years of the Compact. Chairman Cromwell sought to reassure the Joint Committee that the Tribe’s casino plan remains on track and emphasized that a tribal casino is a “win-win for the tribe, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
While Chairman Wagner aimed to keep the discussion focused on the Compact, a handful of other speakers, including representatives of commercial bidders in the region, raised the other legal hurdles to the Tribe’s quest for a casino, including the land-in-trust application and the Carcieri decision. While certain experts predict that it could take years before the Tribe could proceed with construction of its casino due to the legal hurdles, a lawyer for the Mashpee insisted that “the final decision on a Carcieri analysis is measured in weeks, not years.”
Timeline Set for Region C
During the May 16 public meeting of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the Commission confirmed the application and license award timeline for Region C. The summary schedule of Region C is as follows:
- Now through October 3, 2013: Request for Applications (with the request published by June 28, 2013)
- October 4, 2013 through July 8, 2014: Evaluation of Phase 1 Applications (review of suitability of applicants and background investigations)
- October 4, 2013 through September 2, 2014: Local Negotiations and Vote
- January 21, 2014 through September 2, 2014: Applicants Prepare and Submit Phase 2 Applications
- September 3, 2014 through December 31, 2014: Arbitration (if needed)
- September 3, 2014 through December 31, 2014: Evaluation of Phase 2 Applications (review of proposals and responses) and Award of License.
Some of the potential benefits to the above listed schedule include: (i) creating a realistic period for background investigations given the likely reduced number of applicants (compared to Regions A and B); (ii) limiting any impact on current background reviews by starting pre-application qualifier scoping meetings after Category 1 determinations on September 3, 2013; (iii) enabling communities to vote on referenda after suitability reviews; (iv) permitting an award by December 2014 even if there are surrounding community disputes; and (v) allowing the Commission to evaluate any progress made on Region C tribal gaming application.