Taunton Voters Favor Mashpee Wampanoag Casino Proposal
By: Geoff Spillane
Taunton residents today overwhelmingly voted to put out the welcome mat for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to build a $500 million destination resort in the city.
With all the precincts now tallied for the non-binding referendum, the pro-casino vote came out ahead 7,693 to 4,571.
Taunton is now the first municipality in Massachusetts to approve casino gambling since the state Legislature approved a gaming bill late last year.
The neighboring towns of Lakeville and Freetown recently voted down casino proposals by the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah, while Foxborough voters expressed their anti-casino stance in a board of selectmen election in May.
Of the city's 33,000 registered voters, 36 percent turned out at the polls on a sunny, summer-like Saturday.
Taunton Mayor Thomas J.Hoye, Jr. announced the results to at Taunton City Hall this evening. The polls closed at 8 PM.
With today's vote, a signed revenue-sharing and regulatory compact with Governor Deval L. Patrick, which must be approved by the state Legislature, is the next major mandate to meet before a July 31 deadline to maintain preferred status for obtaining a casino license in southeastern Massachusetts. The tribe will also need to prove it is making progress toward obtaining federal approval to have the land taken into trust by the US Bureau of Indian Affairs.
However, lawsuits against the city and the state by the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah, the Town of Middleborough, and anti-casino groups could pose an obstacle for the Mashpee in the weeks to come.