Tribe objects to casino operation
By Taunton Gazette
Posted May 15, 2015 at 5:18 PM
BOSTON — Nearly a month from Plainridge Park Casino’s targeted opening, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is claiming the type of machines and number of positions at the commercial slots parlor violate state law.
“I’m very confident in our work, in our lawyering and in our process, but I’m also open to talking about it,” Gaming Commission chairman Stephen Crosby said.
Penn National Gaming, which was awarded a license to open a slots parlor at Plainridge Park in Plainville, near the Rhode Island border, plans to open the new facility on June 24. Under its license, the facility is restricted to 1,250 slot machines and no table games.
While the slots parlor has 1,250 machines, the Gaming Commission decided last year to allow the facility to have up to 1,500 gamblers playing at the same time, as some machines offer multiplayer games. Differing from traditional slots, some of the machines offer video simulations of poker and other table games.
Crosby said the commission’s actions reflect the panel’s understanding and interpretation of the statute.
The tribe, however, disputes that interpretation.
“The Tribe hereby respectfully requests that the Attorney General’s Office investigate this matter and advise the Commission to rescind or amend its regulations to bring them into compliance … ,” attorney Howard M. Cooper wrote in a May 13 letter to Attorney General Maura Healey.
Healey spokeswoman Emalie Gainey said the tribe’s letter is under review.
The Mashpee, who have faced a series of delays and setbacks in their pursuit of a tribal casino in Taunton, claim the additional positions at Plainridge could divert $30 million in revenue from a future tribal casino.
“We believe their claim is completely without merit and that we are in full compliance with state regulations,” said Eric Schippers, Penn National’s senior vice president for public affairs and government relations.
The gaming commission on Thursday approved the floor plan for Plainridge Park. The panel’s legal counsel, Catherine Blue, said the decision is unrelated to the tribe’s complaint. She vowed the commission will cooperate with the AG’s office.
Crosby said the tribe’s complaint “came out of left field.”
The decision to allow 1,500 gambling positions, Crosby said, underwent a careful legal review and rigorous public comment period last year. The commission, he said, works to interpret and match the language of the gambling statute to industry norms.
“We discussed this in a very public, robust extended conversation,” he said.