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Middleboro Casino Plans Hangs in Balance

It was the biggest town meeting in the history of Massachusetts as nearly four thousand Middleboro resident braved the scorching heat to vote on allowing a resort casino to the area on July 25th, 2009. The agreement, which passed by a two-one margin, was supposed to put the town in Middleboro on the spotlight and make the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe earn money for the state and for themselves. But the problems started. Tribal Head Glenn Marshall resigned from his position and was later imprisoned. The global financial crisis worsened.

The US Supreme Court dealt a potentially fatal blow in the casino plans and the casino investors stopped their payments to the tribe. Two years since the casino agreement of July 28th, 2007 was finalized, the chances of a casino being constructed in Middleboro appear slim. Richard Young of Middleboro, the head of the Casino Free Mass group, which opposes the casino project, said that everything has gone bad for the agreement ever since it was approved two years.

Even some of the biggest supporters of the agreement now say that they close to giving up on the idea. Former Middleboro Selectman Adam Bond, who helped finalized the agreement, states that there a lot of obstacles that are hampering the project. The Mashpee Tribe remains more optimistic about the whole thing. The vice chairman of the tribal council, Aaron Tobey, said that they believe that they can overcome the challenges that are facing them.

Doubts about the casino project started with Glenn Marshall registration less than a month after the casino town meeting in 2007. Marshall's rape conviction worsened the situation. It also raised some questions whether the casino agreement is good since the former tribal head's name is all over it. But those issues might be not important if a decision made by the US Supreme Court on February 2009 stands.

The "Carcieri" decision stated that the US government has no power to set aside land for Indian Tribes like the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, who were recognized after 1934. The Mashpee Wampanoag wants land in Middleboro place under trust so that they can build a $1 billion casino resort there. Tobey said that the Mashpee Tribe's hope is to get the Congress to change the decision. The tribe has been told by the Bureau of Indian Affairs that a proposal to do this could be given to the Obama administration and then the Congress by the end of the year.

But some gaming experts like Clyde Barrow, a UMass-Dartmouth gaming researcher and supporter of bringing non-Indian commercial casino facilities to the state said that the current situation will not allow that to happen. Barrow said that the Supreme Court decision may be behind the decision in May by the casino project's investors, Sol Kerzner and Len Wolman, to stop monthly payments to the Mashpee Tribe. A spokeswoman for the investors, Diana Pisciotta, did not comment on the issue.

The Mashpee tribe voted in June against upholding its 2006 development agreement with the investors, though it remains unclear what this means for the casino facility project. Barrow said that the financial crisis might also put the Middleboro casino project in limbo.


19 August 2009
News Submitted by:
Jessica Kellerman

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