The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is wasting little time in breaking ground as it makes its pitch for its proposed tribal casino in Taunton, Massachusetts.
The tribe, which gained sovereignty from the U.S. government in 2007, has created an aggressive timeline for its proposed First Light Casino project, as it has announced it would like to break ground early next month in order to have a grand opening, sans hotel, in the summer of 2017.
According to the tribe, the $1 billion First Light project will boast three 15-story luxury hotels, retail stores, and a water park, to go along with its plans for a gaming floor consisting of 3,000 slot machines, 150 table games, and a sizable 40 table poker room.
The tribe appeared before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Tuesday to unveil more details about its plan. However, because of its tribal sovereignty and the tribe’s land going into trust last year, and the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Wampanoag tribe doesn’t need the state’s approval to build a casino, although it would be best for all involved if the state and the tribe worked together and were on the same page.
Because of the aggressive timeline, the First Light Casino would be the first destination casino in Massachusetts to open its doors. The MGM project in Springfield and the Wynn project in Everett are slated to have their ribbon-cuttings in 2018, and the Wynn project has run into several delays due to disagreements with neighboring communities.
State’s plans thrown into disarray
The original plan when Massachusetts passed its casino law in 2011 was to license three destination casinos in three separate “zones” in the state, as well as one slot casino, which has already opened in Plainville, Massachusetts.
Those plans may have to be altered now that the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has made clear it will build a tribal casino in Taunton, Massachusetts with or without the state’s blessing, something all recognized tribes are able to do in any state where casino gaming has been legalized.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will now have to decide if it wants to:
- Go forward with its original plans and license three destination casinos in addition to the Mashpee Wampanoag tribal casino;
- Fight the Wampanoags in court, which would likely do little more than delay First Light Casino and create ill will between the MGC, the Wampanoags, and the corporate casino entities in the state;
- Scrap the plans for three destination casinos and let the Wampanoag’s tribal casino replace the third licensee.
Saturation fears a growing concern
If the MGC and the state don’t fight against a tribal casino in Taunton, the state is likely to choose option three from above, and suspend the issuance of the third license, even though that would mean less revenue flowing into the state’s coffers due to the tax revenue breakdowns between tribal casinos and the states they are located in.
The potential of an oversaturated market like that of New Jersey and many other east coast gaming markets is simply too great.
The current frontrunner is Mass Gaming and Entertainment, a subsidiary of Rush Street Gaming, which would like to build in nearby Brockton, putting it in very close proximity to the Mashpee tribal casino, and creating a scenario where casino gaming in Massachusetts could very well hit a saturation point, something the creation of the three casino zones was meant to avoid.
Not only would First Light Casino and (likely) Rush Street’s project in Borckton be within 20 to 30 minutes of one another, but the already-open-for-business Plainridge Casino (racino) in Plainville, Massachusetts is just a mere 30 minute car ride from Taunton. The proposed Wynn Casino in Everett just an hour north.
The in-state competition is in addition to the Twin River Casino in neighboring Rhode Island, which is about 40 minutes from Taunton, and 20 minutes from Plainville.
The only casino in the region that wouldn’t get caught up in a likely marketing blitz designed to lure potential casino goers away from competitors would be the MGM Casino being built in Springfield, nearly two hours to the west of both Taunton and Everett.