State gambling commission backs off plan to open up Southeastern Mass. to private companies

The state gambling commission has backed off a proposal to open Southeastern Massachusetts to commercial casino developers, punting the issue 90 days to mid-March.

The unanimous decision was a win for the Mashpee Wampanoag, who continue to pursue a tribal casino in the southeast, and a blow to commercial casino developers eager for the opportunity to compete for a state casino license.

Commercial casino developers have been shut out of Southeastern Massachusetts since the state legalized casino gambling in November 2011. State law delays commercial bidding in the southeast to give the Mashpee a head start in developing a tribal casino under federal guidelines.

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But the tribe continues to face steep legal obstacles to winning federal approval to host gambling, and the commission in recent weeks has discussed the possibility of entertaining commercial bids while the tribe continues to seek approval.

The tribe objected and asked for the three month delay, said commission Chairman Stephen Crosby, who said the commission wants to give the tribe as much leeway as reasonable to pursue its casino plans.

“The challenge being — what is reasonable?” said Crosby.

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