Bridgewater Is One Option For Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Casino Site
By: Geoff Spillane
With casino gambling now the law of the land in Massachusetts, the guessing game has begun—where will the Mashpee Wampanoag destination resort casino be located?
While an announcement has not yet been made, and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council has been strictly mum on where it is even exploring, two ideas emerged from interviews this week with public officials: that the Bridgewater-Raynham area may be under serious consideration and that the tribe mending damaged fences with Middleborough is increasingly unlikely.
An announcement of the site is likely imminent as the tribe must procure land and receive a referendum vote of approval by citizens of the host community by July 31, 2012.
Tribal council Chairman Cedric Cromwell through his spokesman declined an interview request from the Enterprise.
After false starts with Middleborough and Fall River over the past few years, the field of possibilities has been extended to all locations in Plymouth and Bristol counties, from Brockton in the north to Seekonk in the south. Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket counties have already been ruled out as potential casino sites, due to geographical and environmental concerns. The tribe has pledged not to build a casino on Cape Cod.
According to experts and state and local officials, the smart money, for those who bet, is on the towns adjacent to the intersection of Interstate 495 and Route 24, including Bridgewater, Raynham, and Taunton.
State Senator Marc R. Pacheco, a Democrat who represents Berkley, Bridgewater, Carver, Dighton, Marion, Middleborough, Raynham, and Taunton, confirmed in a telephone interview this week that he has been informed that the tribe has been scouting locations in his district. According to Sen. Pacheco, the locations are near major highways and would provide little impact to the immediate area.
“I voted for the bill and will be supportive of any town in my district that approves a referendum. This would be a good thing for the region as a whole. I been waiting to see this happen for 25 years,” Sen. Pacheco said, noting that Raynham and Taunton, having been hosts to dog racing tracks, are predisposed to accepting the gaming industry.
State Representative Angelo D’Emelia, whose district includes Bridgewater, Raynham, and Easton, said he hopes to see development of the casino in Bridgewater or Raynham, but he understands that the tribe is exploring other options.
The owner of a large parcel of land in Bridgewater, near the Raynham town line and the intersection of the two highways and thought to be considered as a potential site for the casino, declined to discuss the matter with the Enterprise.
“I’ve heard the same rumors. If Bridgewater would be considered as a location for the casino, we would be pleased to work with the tribe for mitigation issues,” Bridgewater Town Manager Troy B.G. Clarkson said.
Middleborough Selectman Allin Frawley said he has also heard “rumblings” of activity in Bridgewater and Raynham. When asked if Middleborough would be receptive to reopening discussions with the tribe, Selectman Frawley said, “Only if they write us a $70 million check for wastewater treatment and other projects we started when we entered our inter-governmental agreement.”
New Bedford has long been mentioned in the mix of potential locations, but its newly elected mayor, Jon Mitchell, may have lessened its odds. Mr. Mitchell’s biography on his website touts a major accomplishment of his career being the prosecution of “Glenn Marshall, the former leader of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe for a campaign finance scheme connected to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.”
In addition, a lawsuit filed by KG Enterprises, challenging the constitutionality of the tribe’s preferential status, was endorsed by the New Bedford City Council.