Mashpee tribe gets reprieve, casino future still uncertain
President Donald Trump doesn’t always get his way. He had spoken out against a bill that would authorize the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts to be designated as a federally-recognized tribe, despite not meeting certain criteria, and many thought that his criticism of the legislation would cause it to crumble. However, this past Wednesday, lawmakers showed that they don’t always have to follow the President and approved the bill.
The House of Representatives approved Bill 312 by a vote of 276-146. The House is controlled by the Democrats, so their support against the Republican Trump isn’t too surprising, but the bill also found support among 47 Republicans.
According to current federal regulations, only those Indian tribes who were recognized under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (IRA) are provided certain concessions, such as land ownership. The Mashpee people didn’t receive their status as a recognized tribe until 2007 and it was then that the Department of the Interior designated land to the tribe. That designation was later struck down by the Supreme Court, which ruled that the federal government didn’t have the authority to sidestep the IRA.
The approval in the House is just one step. The Senate still has to approve similar legislation and Maybank Investment Bank analyst Samuel Yin Shao Yang points out, “If a similar bill is passed in the U.S. Senate and President Donald Trump does not veto the bill, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe can build their First Light Resort and Casino and repay Genting Malaysia.”
Genting reported to Bursa Malaysia that its 2018 annual results included an impairment loss of around $440 million as a result of its investment in promissory notes offered by the Mashpee tribe for the casino that still hasn’t come to fruition.
Despite overwhelming support in the House, Bill 312 didn’t come through unscathed. A Republican member of Congress out Arizona slipped in language that would prevent the tribe from using the 312 acres of land it has been designated for “any gaming purposes.” It doesn’t take much to figure out why an Arizona Republican lawmaker would introduce language for an activity to take place in Massachusetts – on the other side of the country.
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