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Legal Brief Spurs Controversy

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is circulating a new legal brief on Beacon Hill, which argues that Governor Patrick has the power to negotiate a casino deal with the tribe — without the initial approval of lawmakers.

The tribe commissioned the legal brief from a University of Michigan law professor in order to determine their legal rights as they move forward with their plans to potentially build a $1 billion casino in southeastern Massachusetts.

The brief further complicates the already murky political waters about expanding gambling in Massachusetts, with many elected officials offering hesitant responses to the brief's analysis of state and federal law.

Attorney General Martha Coakley tells the Boston Globe the issue of Indian gaming remains "uncharted territory" in the state.

But one thing the brief does argue that will likely ruffle feathers on Beacon Hill is the suggestion that the Mashpee can go over the head of the state legislature, which has historically opposed expanding state gambling, and appeal directly to the governor.

According to the analysis by University of Michigan professor Richard Primus, the legislature would no longer be the gatekeeper for building casinos, but could draft and pass legislation that could shoot down any deal Patrick and the tribe devise.

When asked about the brief, tribe spokesman Scott Ferson says this is a preliminary analysis by one legal expert, and the tribe will seek additional perspectives of the casino issue going forward.

"I think it's reasonable to want to go out and find out what legal scholars might think about what's possible," said Fersom. "The tribe is interested in knowing what the correct answer is."

Meantime, the Boston Herald is reporting today that the same developers who bankrolled Connecticut's Mohegan Sun Casino are offering the Mashpee tribe an infusion of cash for developing a casino here.

Sol Kerzner, and Len Wolman are teaming up with Starwood International to help fund a prospective casino site south of Boston.

This program aired on June 6, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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