Mashpee Wampanoag tribe places big bet

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe went all-in on its proposed Taunton casino on Monday, announcing the facility would begin opening in phases next year.

The aggressive move by the tribe to accelerate its construction schedule is an attempt to sway the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and intimidate its would-be commercial rival, Mass Gaming and Entertainment, which wants to build a casino in Brockton.

Tribal officials said they plan to break ground on the First Light Resort & Casino next month and open a gaming facility next summer near the intersection of Routes 24 and 140, near the Silver City Galleria mall. Construction of a hotel, retail stores, a performance stage, spa, and water park would follow.

Officials said the project would cost $1 billion to build and employ about 1,000 construction workers and 2,600 permanent employees. By contrast, the proposed Wynn Resorts hotel and casino in Everett is expected to cost $1.7 billion to build and employ 4,000 construction workers and 4,000 permanent employees.

The Gaming Commission is in the process of deciding whether to award its third and final casino license to Mass Gaming and Entertainment or to dispense with the license and leave the region to the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe.

The choice isn’t easy because it’s not clear whether the Mashpee Wampanoag casino will ever get built, or if it does get built whether it will be allowed to stay open. A lawsuit is pending challenging the federal government’s decision allowing the tribe to take the Taunton land into trust as part of its reservation. If that suit succeeds, the tribe’s casino plans could be shut down. But if the Gaming Commission gives a casino license to Mass Gaming and the lawsuit over the Taunton land fails, the state could be left with two casinos in Massachusetts within 20 miles of each other.

With Monday’s announcement, the tribe is gambling that pushing ahead with the construction of its casino will cause the Gaming Commission and Mass Gaming to back off. It’s a risky bet, given the legal uncertainty surrounding the taking of land into trust by Indian tribes. Most of that uncertainty was brought about by a 2009 Supreme Court decision, which rejected a bid by the federal government to take 31 acres of land into trust for the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island.

Mashpee Wampanoag officials, as they have in the past, insisted the lawsuit challenging their acquisition of reservation land has no merit. They said their casino is moving ahead. “All the doubters out there? Sorry, it’s happening,” said Cedric Cromwell, the tribe’s chairman.

–BRUCE MOHL

 

BEACON HILL

An emotional Gov. Charlie Baker signs opioid abuse prevention legislation. (State House News)

Baker, no fan of the hospital rate-setting ballot question, says he would prefer the price differential between teaching hospitals and other health care institutions be resolved on Beacon Hill and not in the voting booth. (CommonWealth)

Attorney General Maura Healey will begin posting complaints online that her office receives about Open Meeting Law violations. (Patriot Ledger)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A study prepared by the Boston Redevelopment Authority says the city is becoming a place of the haves and have-nots, with half of all city residents earning less than $35,000 a year. (Boston Globe)

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh gives a lucrative piece of property downtown to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and it’s unclear why. (digboston)

Regionalization was seen as a way for municipalities to join together and save money, but it doesn’t seem to be happening at the Essex County Regional Emergency Communications Center in Middleton, where fewer communities than expected joined up so the state has had to step in with additional funds. (Salem News)

Chester Darling, the lawyer who won a unanimous US Supreme Court decision in 1995  allowing organizers of South Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade to ban a gay group from marching, was back in federal court yesterday trying to stop the city’s effort to shorten this year’s parade route. (Boston Herald) A Herald editorial thinks a shorter route is probably all for the best, especially if it cuts short the number of “out-of-town drunks” attending.

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

John King, who founded the Roxbury Prep charter school in Boston, was confirmed by the Senate as secretary of education. (Washington Post)

ELECTIONS

Sen. Ted Cruz stood by his pledge to support Donald Trump if he wins the Republican nomination, saying about the only thing that could deter that is if Trump himself shot someone. (U.S. News & World Report) Ben Carson says even if Trump turns out to be a bad president, he will only be in office for four years. (Politico)

Today’s Florida and Ohio primaries are a crucial test of efforts by Republican leaders to stop Trump’s march to the nomination. (Boston Globe)

State Sen. Dan Wolf, the liberal founder and CEO of Cape Air who is giving up his seat this fall, sounds very interested in mounting a 2018 challenge to Gov. Charlie Baker. (Boston Globe)

A Globe editorial says states should abandon presidential caucuses in favor full-fledged primaries.

Longtime Mitt Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom says Mitt is not to blame for Trump’s rise. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

Sen. Elizabeth Warren says it’s crucial that the Every Student Succeeds Act maintains the federal commitment to vulnerable children. (CommonWealth)

Paul Reville calls for an end to the charter school wars. (CommonWealth)

Greater Boston takes a look at the controversy over a high school basketball game between Catholic Memorial and Newton North that has drawn national attention because of homophobic and anti-Semitic taunts from the student bodies. Herald columnist Steve Buckley says Catholic Memorial was wrong to ban its students from attending the school’s championship game last night.

Maureen Binienda, the principal of South High Community School in Worcester, is elevated to the superintendent’s job. (Telegram & Gazette) John Foley, the lone no vote against Binienda, said the school committee was wrong to consider only internal candidates. (Masslive)

Harvard Law School is retiring its shield, which was modeled on the crest of a Medford slave owner. (WBUR)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The NFL for the first time admits a connection between football and traumatic brain disease. (ESPN)

Officials at western Massachusetts homeless shelters say the state’s funding formula leaves them strapped for cash. (Masslive)

The health science news site STAT is going to court to try to unseal court records in Kentucky related to the marketing of OxyContin by the drug’s maker, Purdue Pharama.

TRANSPORTATION

Overtime and unscheduled absences are declining at the MBTA. (CommonWealth)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Obama administration is preparing to reverse its plans to allow oil drilling off the coast of several southeastern states along the Atlantic because of opposition within some of the coastal communities. (New York Times)

Sen. Edward Markey and Rep. Joe Kennedy are calling for greater federal scrutiny of energy prices in New England. (Boston Globe)

Nothing lasts forever: Gas prices have spiked 9 cents on average in Massachusetts in the last week because of an increase in the international price of oil. (Associated Press)

A surprising number of extremely rare right whales have been spotted in Cape Cod Bay, with nearly half of the world’s population of the endangered species believed to be returning to the region to feed. (Associated Press)

A Quabbin Reservoir committee votes 5-2 in favor of the state’s plan to make an island in the reservoir home to timber rattlesnakes. (Telegram & Gazette)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The family of DJ Henry, a college student from Easton who was shot and killed by police in Pleasantville, New York, in 2010, will receive $6 million in a settlement agreement of their wrongful death suit against the town. (The Enterprise)

Apple is resisting prosecutors’ requests to help unlock the iPhone of an alleged Boston gang leader. (Boston Globe)

A federal jury rejected the claims made in a lawsuit by a Boston man who was imprisoned based on faulty evidence in the state drug lab scandal that state officials should be financially liable for the actions of rogue chemist Annie Dookhan. (Boston Globe)

The son of the chief of the Massachusetts Appeals Court was charged with hate crimes and vandalism in connection with spray painting a range of racist and homophobic slurs on a chapel at Northwestern University. (Boston Globe)

More than half the guns seized by police in Massachusetts come from out of state, with New Hampshire and Maine being the top sources. (Wicked Local)

A minister who has worked for more than 20 years with inmates leaving jail has filed a discrimination suit against the Bristol County Sheriff department, saying correction officers treated him differently because of race and religion and purposely used profanity when he was around. (Herald News)

MEDIA

The conservative Breitbart News is facing internal turmoil as a number of staffers, including the editor, have left over the conservative website’s failure to support a reporter who says she was grabbed by Donald Trump’s campaign manager. (New York Times)

Low ratings have cost Gary LaPlante his job as news director at WBZ-TV after a year and half on the job. (Boston Herald)