Q: What is a destination resort casino?
A:The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is planning to build a destination resort casino that will be far more than just a gaming facility. In addition to a casino with ample parking, the Tribe plans to build a luxury hotel, high-end and family restaurants, a retail center, entertainment venues, and a water park. Ultimately, the resort will have something for all age groups and sensibilities.
The destination resort will be built in phases, the first of which will include a hotel, restaurants, parking, and gaming. Additional development will occur in a sustainable manner. The first phase of the destination resort is expected to employ over 2,500 people.
Q: Will a destination resort casino bring jobs to Taunton and help the economy?
A:Yes! The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe's destination resort casino will bring over 2,500 permanent, good jobs to Taunton. These positions will include benefits like health insurance, meals, and paid vacations, and an average salary of $35,000. There will also be 1,000 union construction jobs during the building phases.
In addition, the resort casino will provide an estimated $120 million in economic benefits to Taunton through payroll and opportunity for local business. The resort casino will spend millions of dollars annually on goods and services required to operate the facility, and will purchase locally when possible.
A congressionally mandated study of legalized gaming conducted by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission reported the introduction a new casino to be beneficial to a host community: “a new casino of even limited attractiveness, placed in a market that is not already saturated, will yield positive economic benefits on net to its host economy.” (Adam Rose and Associates, The Regional Economic Impacts of Casino Gambling: Assessment of the Literature and Establishment of a Research Agenda, p. 22).
Q: How much money will Taunton get from the destination resort casino?
A:According to the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA), Taunton will be paid an estimated $33 million in the first phase of the destination resort casino, plus approximately $13 million annually. Of the annual mitigation payments, $2.5 million is designated for Police, $1.5 million for Fire services, and $370,000 for Taunton schools. The City will be able to decide how to spend the $8 million in additional annual revenue it will receive, which could be designated to priorities like education, infrastructure, economic development, public safety, or tax stabilization.
Q: Why should the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe build a destination resort casino in Taunton?
A:The Wampanoag have lived in Southeastern Massachusetts for more than 12,000 years. Originally called "Cohannut," Taunton is a part of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe's ancestral homeland. Taunton is included in the area of the state designated by the Governor as appropriate for a Casino developed and operated by a federally recognized tribe, and is part of the service area covered by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe as determined by the federal government.
Q: What is the timeline for the project?
A:The referendum to approve the destination resort casino was approved. The Tribe and the City of Taunton negotiated an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) which is available for review (see IGA definition below.) A compact (see compact definition below) was signed between the Tribe and Governor Deval Patrick and delivered to Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Kevin Washburn. This compact went on to be passed by the state legislature and then moved to the U.S. Department of the Interior where it was deemed approved.
Q: What land has the Tribe identified for the destination resort casino?
A:The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe currently has an option to purchase several parcels of land totaling 146 acres in the Liberty and Union Industrial Park, near the intersection of routes 24 and 140.
Q: What other locations have been considered for the casino?
A:Exercising sound fiduciary responsibility, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe researched several options before identifying Taunton as the best fit for a destination resort casino. The Tribe is excited about the opportunity to work with the City of Taunton and its residents to build and operate a world-class destination resort.
Q: Will a casino bring increased crime?
A:Numerous studies have concluded that there is no direct correlation between an increase in crime rate and the development of a gaming enterprise. According to a study conducted by the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis at the University of Connecticut, crimes in the host community declined in the five years after the opening of the Mashantucket's Foxwoods Casino.
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is developing its tribal gaming enterprise in accordance with National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), which oversees 460 gaming operations for 240 tribes across the country. Established in 1988, the stated mission of NIGC is to "regulate gaming activities for the purpose of shielding Indian tribes from organized crime and other corrupting influences." To do this, the Commission is authorized to investigate, audit, and enforce tribal gaming ordinances ensuring that both the Tribe and Taunton will be safe from corrupting influences.
Q: What about traffic impacts on Taunton?
A:The Tribe has hired a development and design team for the destination resort casino including traffic engineers, who will be considering known existing traffic impacts in Taunton, as well as the concerns raised by citizens about the potential for future impacts.
Q: Will there be noise and light pollution from the destination resort casino?
A:The Tribe and the development and design team for the destination resort casino will be considering all concerns of Taunton’s citizens. They will be incorporating state-of-the-art design concepts and technologies in building materials and lighting equipment to minimize or eliminate such impacts including light and noise.
Q: Will the development be environmentally respectful?
A:The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is very conscious of its impact upon the earth for generations to come. It is understood that the need to establish economic sustainability and maintain the Tribe in its ancestral homeland must be balanced with environmental sustainability. This is the philosophy that will drive the development of the destination resort casino, including land-use strategy, design elements, the use of renewable energy, and the selection of building technology and materials.
Q: Taunton and the Tribe have negotiated an Intergovernmental Agreement. What does that mean?
A:An Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) is a contract between two governments -- in this case, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the City of Taunton. The IGA spells out the amount of money the Tribe will pay for mitigation as well as direct revenue to the City. The IGA also covers the relationship between the two governments, how they communicate with each other, and how the agreement will be enforced. Click here to view the full IGA.
Q: Does the bonding mechanism in the IGA negatively impact the city?
A:No. The bonding mechanism is a Special Revenue Bond. The city has no responsibility to repay the bond, it has no impact on the city's credit rating, and it has no impact on the city's bonding capacity. The Tribe and its lenders guarantee any bond and bear responsibility for repayment.
Q: The Tribe and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts negotiated a compact. What is a compact?
A:A Tribal-State compact is an agreement between an Indian Tribe and a state government. The content of these compacts varies from state to state and may vary from tribe to tribe. These compacts sometimes provide for revenue to be paid by the Indian tribe to the state, as funding for state regulatory responsibilities, and sometimes for mitigation of local casino impacts, and for the enforcement of laws and regulations respecting casino operations. The compact is the opportunity for tribe and state to discuss and agree on the regulatory matters related to Class III casino gaming. All negotiated and signed compacts are sent to the U.S. Department of the Interior for approval, and become effective when published in the Federal Register so long as the tribe has land eligible for gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
After the Massachusetts gaming law was enacted, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts negotiated a compact. This compact went on to be passed by the state legislature and then moved to the U.S. Department of the Interior where it was deemed approved.
Q: What does the Massachusetts law say about a tribal project vs. a commercial project?
A:The Massachusetts Gaming law split the state into three distinct regions. The Southeastern Massachusetts region was designated for a qualified federally recognized tribe to negotiate with the state to reach an agreement on a Tribal-State Compact.
Q: Why does the Tribe get special preference? Why doesn't some other group get special treatment?
A:Indian tribes are political entities, not an ethnic or racial group. Click here to read a Cape Cod Times editorial on the subject. Federally recognized tribes, like the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, are treated as sovereign governments, not special interest groups.
Congress enacted the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, or IGRA, in 1988, to encourage tribal economic development and promote strong tribal governments, to protect tribes, and to establish the National Indian Gaming Commission, or NIGC, to approve certain gaming-related agreements and generally oversee Indian gaming. Before that time, the United States Supreme Court had already recognized that tribal governments had sovereign powers to conduct gaming on Indian lands; the IGRA was a codification of that right, along with some opportunity for State involvement (compacts for Class III gaming) and the creation of a federal oversight agency (NIGC).
Specifically, the law provides that if a state allows gaming for any purpose, a federally recognized tribe may operate Class III gaming facilities on tribal land by negotiating a compact with the particular state. A federally recognized tribe may operate Class II gaming facilities on tribal land without any State involvement. The Massachusetts Gaming Law recognizes the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe's unique rights, and the Tribe looks forward to working with the state to make a destination resort casino successful for the Tribe, Taunton, the region, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Q: What's a federally recognized tribe?
A:Federal recognition of Indian tribes means official acknowledgement by the United States of the political status of that tribe as a government. These tribes share a legal relationship (government-to-government) with the federal government and are entitled to receive special services and benefits designed to fulfill the federal trust responsibility to tribes. No decisions about tribal land or residents can be made without the tribe's consent. The U.S. Department of the Interior maintains the list of federally-recognized tribes.
Q: What is Tribal Sovereignty?
A:Tribal sovereignty refers to the inherent right of indigenous peoples to govern themselves. Indian tribes, whose existence and sovereignty pre-date the United States, are distinct, independent political communities that maintain their original natural rights in self-government and self-determination. Among other things, tribes have the right to establish their own form of government, adopt legislation governing their lands and tribal members, establish a legal system, and define their citizenship.
The existence of tribal sovereignty pre-dates the U.S. Constitution. Indian peoples were dealt with as sovereign nations by European explorers and colonizers in North America, who entered into treaties with Indians for the purpose of trade, recognition of land boundaries and uses, and military alliances.
When the United States adopted its Constitution, it also treated tribes as sovereign entities. Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution states: “The Congress shall have the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states and with Indian tribes.” The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the sovereignty of tribes in multiple rulings. The relationship between Indians and the United States is based on tribes’ status as distinct political – not racial – entities.
Federally recognized tribes are formally acknowledged as sovereign nations by the United States, and the interactions between these tribes and the federal government are on a government-to-government basis. Federal recognition can be as a result of executive order, congressional legislation, or the Department of the Interior’s federal acknowledgment process, known as the “administrative process.” Throughout the recognition process, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe refused to cede any of its aboriginal and treaty rights in exchange for a quicker path to recognition.
Q: What is the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act?
A:The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) is a law passed in 1988 regulating the operation of gaming on Indian land and intended to ensure that tribes received the full benefit of their governmental gaming enterprise, protecting tribes from predatory and corrupting outside entities. IGRA did not establish Indian gaming, which has always been a sovereign right of Indian tribes; rather, it upheld tribes’ rights to conduct gaming as a means of economic development to promote self-sufficiency as the primary beneficiaries of any gaming operation.
Q: What is a federal Indian Reservation?
A:A federal Indian Reservation is an area of land reserved for a tribe or tribes under treaty or other agreement with the United States, executive order, or federal statute or administrative action as permanent tribal homelands, and where the federal government holds title to the land in trust on behalf of the tribe. (For additional information, read the FAQs compiled by the Bureau of Indian Affairs [BIA])
Q: What is the significance of Carcieri v. Salazar?
A:In 2009, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Secretary’s authority to place land into trust for all tribes is limited to those “under Federal jurisdiction” as of 1934.
Q: Does Carcieri v. Salazar preclude the Secretary from taking land into trust for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe?
A:No, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is confident it can demonstrate that the unfair Carcieri decision does not prohibit the Secretary from accepting land into trust for the Tribe. Specifically, the Tribe has been under federal jurisdiction consistently since the establishment of the Constitution, and its history reflects continued status as a tribe within that jurisdiction, a status that supports the 2007 federal acknowledgment determination.
The Tribe's current land-into-trust application for an initial reservation includes land in Mashpee and Taunton. This land, when placed into trust, will fall under an explicit exemption under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act known as an "equal footing exception," which ensures newly acknowledged tribes establishing initial reservation land have equal footing with existing gaming tribes -- and that the newly established Initial Reservation is eligible for gaming under the IGRA.
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is not blazing a new trail with its land-into-trust application post-Carcieri, but rather following the example of other tribes, including the Tunica Biloxi Tribe in Louisiana and the Cowlitz Tribe in Washington that have already been successful in establishing their rights to trust land, as recently recognized tribes, despite the Carcieri decision.
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