Massachusetts Gaming Commission RFI Testing the Waters

On January 29, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, in a post on its website, issued a Request for Information /RFI/, asking for input and business analysis regarding the remaining third casino license that is allocated for a facility in the Southeastern region of the state.

Another Casino in Southeastern Massachusetts

The question whether to award the license for a resort-type casino in Southeastern Massachusetts is coming to the fore again, after initially in 2016, when the Commission considered applications for that license it got only one offer, from Mass. Gaming and Entertainment /MG & E/, a subsidiary of Rush Street Gaming, for a casino facility in the Brockton Fairgrounds worth $677 million, and subsequently decided to decline the application and keep the license, and then in late 2019 the Commission issued a second rejection of the same project.

Southeastern Massachusetts is a region that houses a harness race track and a slots parlour, both in Plainridge Park, with two casinos operated by Twin River in close proximity across the Rhode Island state line, and two other ongoing tribal projects, the Mashpee Wampanoag with a close to $1 billion resort-type casino in  Taunton, and the Aquinnah Wampanoag with their electronic-type bingo hall in Martha’s Vineyard.

Contender and Tribe Interests Opposite

Even after failing twice with its proposal, Mass. Gaming and Entertainment, owned by billionaire Neill Bluhm, does not seem to give up on its project, asking the state to re-consider its refusal to give the license, pointing out the legal difficulties the Mashpee tribe face regarding its resort project in Taunton that delays the region from having an operational facility, and what Bluhm has succeeded so far is to put the issue in the lights again.

The Mashpee tribe, though they have not voiced their concerns with the current developments yet, were obviously discontent with the constant efforts of Bluhm’s company to derail their project the last time around, implying that his interest in the area was behind the legal mires surrounding their casino project in Taunton and delaying the economic growth and job creation in the region, and most importantly, denying them from exercising their sovereignty rights on federally-reserved ancestral homelands.

But the issue seems to go much deeper than any interests MG & E might have as the legal delay happened due to the Department of Interior /DOI/, in a federal lawsuit in 2018, reversing the decision to hold the Mashpee tribe land in federal trust, agreeing that by the time the Indian Reorganization Act passed in 1934, the tribe had not been under federal jurisdiction, and effectively causing the tribe to lose the financial support from their Malaysian partner Genting and even go into $500 million debt.

Public-based Ultimate Decision

The ongoing RFI issued by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission seeks to strengthen its position whether to re-open the application process for the last casino license by gaining the public support behind its previous decision, or find ground for reversing the decision, if needed.

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