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Taunton Tribal Casino Plans Are Dealt Blow By Court Ruling

A rendering of the Mashpee Wampanoag's proposed resort casino in Taunton. (Courtesy)
A rendering of the Mashpee Wampanoag's proposed resort casino in Taunton. (Courtesy)

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe expects an appeal of a federal court ruling Thursday that undercut the tribe's plans to build a resort casino in Taunton.

U.S. District Court Judge William Young ruled in favor of a group of Taunton property owners who contended that the federal government erred in placing reservation land in trust for the southeastern Massachusetts tribe. Young sided with the plaintiffs based on a Supreme Court ruling that only tribes federally recognized before 1934 can be eligible for reservation lands.

After receiving the land in trust from the Interior Department, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe broke ground on the planned $1 billion First Light Resort and Casino. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission subsequently denied a gaming license to private developers who hoped to build a resort casino in nearby Brockton.

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a statement he was “disappointed” by the ruling and would be consulting with the Interior and Justice departments on their next steps. “We expect an appeal will be forthcoming,” he said.

“The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has been a continuous Tribe descended from the indigenous people who have lived on this land for the past 12,000 years. Furthermore, our tribe was indeed under federal jurisdiction before 1934. We submitted evidence of that with our land-in-trust application,” Cromwell said. “Our people have been challenged throughout history and we are still here, living on the land of our ancestors. I have no doubt we will prevail.”

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