- The U.S. Department of the Interior has granted sovereign territory status to the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, allowing the tribe members to move forward with their plans to build and operate a $500 million casino complex in Taunton, MA — about 40 miles south of Boston.
- Plans for the First Light Resort & Casino include a 150,000-square-foot casino, restaurants, retail stores, 600 hotel rooms, a 15,000-square-foot event center and a 25,000-square-foot water park.
- According to the tribe, the project will create 1,000 union construction jobs and add $140 million in annual economic benefit to Taunton and the surrounding area. The Hartford Courant reports the casino proposal is supported by local Taunton residents.
The First Light project has been in the planning stages since 2012 and could start construction as early as the spring of 2016. However, a rival casino developer may think that is a bit optimistic.
A spokesperson for Mass Gaming and Entertainment, currently seeking a state gaming license so that it can build a casino in nearby Brockton, MA, said it was "likely that the Department of Interior’s decision will be challenged and litigated for years."
The Department of Interior is set to transfer approximately 320 acres of land in the Taunton-Mashpee area to be held in federal trust for the benefit of the tribe.
Mass Gaming and Entertainment’s statement, however, also indicates that they believe both projects could be successful even considering the close proximity.
Meanwhile, both the Mohegan Tribal Council and Mashantucket Pequot tribes, which run successful casino enterprises in the neighboring state of Connecticut, have said they do not expect a Mashpee Wampanoag casino to affect their businesses and have both congratulated the tribe on the ruling.