Feds reject Mashpee Wampanoag casino deal

Acting to ensure that the Native American tribe gets a better deal, the US Department of Interior has rejected the casino agreement between Governor Deval Patrick and the Mashpee Wampanoags.

The department cited “a number of provisions that did not comply with the law,’’ including encroachment on tribal sovereignty and a lack of meaningful concessions from the state in exchange for tribal revenue, the department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is in charge of protecting tribes’ interests, said.

The tribe, which wants to build a casino in Taunton, is seeking to immediately begin renegotiating the deal, known as a compact.


Governor Patrick called the rejection “deeply disappointing.’’

“The compact calls for us to resume negotiations in the face of a federal disapproval and requires legislative approval of any renegotiated compact,’’ Patrick said in a statement. “Those conversations will begin in earnest as we work with our partners in the legislature to determine [the] next steps. … I remain committed to striking an appropriate balance which protects the best interests of the commonwealth and the tribe.’’

Under the terms of the rejected deal, the Mashpee would have paid the state 21.5 percent of all gambling revenue from their Taunton facility, in exchange for the right to run a gambling resort in Southeastern Massachusetts, and other considerations. As the Globe reported in July, 21.5 percent is very high in comparison to recent compacts signed by other tribes around the country.

“The revenue sharing provisions in this compact go beyond those permitted by the department,’’ wrote Kevin Washburn, assistant secretary of Indian affairs, in an 18-page rejection letter addressed to Patrick and dated Friday.

States cannot tax tribal casinos, and tribes are only allowed to trade revenue for something of value, normally an exclusive zone without competition from a commercial casino. The compact the state signed with the Mashpees provided limited exclusivity in Southeastern Massachusetts. It would have required a 15 percent cut of the tribe’s revenue even if a commercial resort was licensed in the region. The compact offered the tribe no protection from the establishment of a slot parlor anywhere in Southeastern Massachusetts.

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