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Massachusetts Tribe Loses Casino Lawsuit
A U.S. federal judge decided to rule against several residents from Taunton who brought a lawsuit against the government in an effort to stop the Mashpee Wampanoag from making a casino come to life in the city.
The judge’s verdict in the Boston U.S. District Court granted summary judgment to the U.S. Department of the Interior, a department that had placed 321 acres of land into trust in Taunton and Mashpee. The tribe, which counts roughly 2,600 members, was the defendant in the legal battle.
Tribe vs Court
The tribe’s reservation only returns a small portion of its ancestral territory, however, in a public statement made on Monday, Tribal Chair Brian Weeden stated that the reservation is vital to the tribe’s ability to preserve their culture and language as well as exercise self-governance.
The plaintiffs, who are against the casino, argued in their lawsuit, which was filed in February 2022, that the current administration’s decision to affirm the tribe’s reservation was arbitrary, and illegal, as the tribe is ineligible for a reservation as it was not officially recognized as a tribe in 1934, the year the federal Indian Reorganization Act was enacted. The Mashpee Wampanoags were recognized by the federal government in 2007. Additionally, they claimed that Taunton was not part of the tribe’s historical domain in Cape Cod.
The judge’s ruling, however, stated that the record shows that the tribe in question has had a strong connection to their designated lands for north of 400 years and that the tribe has made a home for itself in the southeastern Massachusetts area for thousands of years, long before their first contact with Europeans, including the 1620 Pilgrims.
No End in Sight
This decision is somewhat of a breakthrough in a legal battle that has lasted for several years and has spanned 3 presidential administrations, regarding the land of the tribe and its right to construct a casino. The plans to make the billion-dollar project are on pause until further development. The tribe made a case for another casino project from 2016 dubbed First Light Resort and it was made up of several entertainment options, including a hotel, shopping, dining, and other sorts of facilities. However, the view on casinos in the region has changed significantly since then. Massachusetts now has two Vegas-like resort casinos, slots parlor included. Moreover, the state legalized sports betting just last month. There’s no telling how long the battle will take considering it has spanned so long.