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Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell said that three firms – Dimeo Construction Company, The Penta Building Group, and Talako Construction – will begin pre-construction for Project First Light, with a possible groundbreaking date of April 5.“It could be a false bravado,” said Adam Bond, the Midd...
TAUNTON – Opponents of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s casino project in Taunton said that the financial backers of the gaming destination would proceed at their own risk if they go forward with a groundbreaking planned for early April.
After the Mashpee tribe announced its plans to break ground on a $500 million casino in Taunton, a lawyer for a group of citizens that filed a lawsuit to stop the project said on Tuesday that the construction project could be a waste of money.
“They do so at their own risk,” said Adam Bond, the Middleboro-based attorney who helped file the lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of the Interior decision to grant land in trust for the tribe in Taunton. “It doesn't change the lawsuit that is pending.”
On Tuesday, Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell published a statement that three firms – Dimeo Construction Company, The Penta Building Group, and Talako Construction – will begin pre-construction for Project First Light, with a possible groundbreaking date of April 5. The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has long told the government and the public that it has the financial backing of the Malaysian multinational Genting Group.
Bond said that the tribe's announcement of an April groundbreaking could be an attempt to convince the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which is deciding on whether to award a commercial license for a Brockton casino project, that the Taunton project will not be stalled or halted by the federal lawsuit.
“It could be a false bravado,” Bond said. “It could be real. I don't know. I'm not focused on their tactical discussions. ... The gamble is theirs, or their financiers’. It's at their own risk.”
Bond said the tribe is scheduled to respond in federal court to the Taunton group’s lawsuit in early April, just before the scheduled groundbreaking.
The state commission previously stated that it is considering the “tribal status” of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, as it decides whether to award a license to Mass Gaming and Entertainment, the group behind the Brockton bid. That status is the crux of the lawsuit filed on behalf of the Taunton citizens group, pointing to the precedent set by the 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar, which stated that the benefits of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 are limited to tribes that were "now under federal jurisdiction" at the time of the law's passage.
The Mashpee tribe was not federally recognized until 2007, but members claim they have been under federal jurisdiction for many generations. The Taunton citizens group points to historic government documents to deny that claim.
The effect of lawsuit is a crucial consideration for the gaming commission, which is concerned about the potential for market oversaturation, with two potential casinos located close to each other. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission recently said that it now plans to make a decision on the Brockton casino in late April.
Neil Bluhm, chairman of the Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming, the parent company of Mass Gaming and Entertainment, has repeatedly stated during public meetings with the gaming commission that the Mashpee tribe may say it’s going to start construction, but that when it comes down to it, he doubts the tribe’s financiers will invest seriously in the Taunton casino project with a serious lawsuit looming overhead. Bluhm recently helped fund the Taunton group’s lawsuit, and the tribe has repeatedly stated that Bluhm’s claims are dubious.
“We are not questioning Genting’s resources,” said Bluhm, during a November hearing for the proposed Brockton casino. “The question is, would a sound businessman want to risk that kind of money in light of the potential reversal of this case? You might say, initially I will, but once you get down to it, would you really do it? But one thing I think is absolutely clear, a lender is not going to take this kind of risk. This would require 100 percent equity or a guarantee. And this is a binary decision. If courts hold you can’t have a casino (in Taunton), there will be no casino. And all of that money is going to be lost. So, that’s a pretty hefty decision for anyone to make in light of the legal analysis.”
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is scheduled to speak about the legal matter with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on March 15 during a public meeting at 1 p.m.