Artist's rendering of the First Light Resort and Casino in Taunton, Massachusetts. Image from Steelman Partners / Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe waits for Trump team's decision on casino

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe still doesn't know when the Trump administration will make a decision on its long-delayed casino in Massachusetts.

The tribe has been told to expect an "update" within 30 days, The Cape Cod Times reports. But that doesn't mean a decision will be made at that time.

“This is no slam dunk decision,” Chairman Cedric Cromwell told the paper. “There is a trust responsibility (between) the United States and federally recognized tribes.”

The tribe broke ground on the First Light Resort and Casino after the Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the project back in September 2015. But litigation led to a halt in construction.

Opponents claim the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar bars the tribe from following the land-into-trust process. According to the ruling, the BIA can place land in trust for tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934 -- the Mashpees didn't gain formal recognition of their status until 2007.

The tribe's casino site, located in the city of Taunton, remains in trust but a federal judge has ordered the BIA to reconsider. Jim Cason, the Associate Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior, is in charge of the review.

Cason, whose position at the department did not require Senate confirmation, was prepared to reject the tribe's application last summer. He even gave the tribe a copy of a draft decision that would have spelled defeat for the casino.

An attorney at Interior has since told the tribe that the matter “remains a top priority” for the department, The Cape Cod Times reported. But the attorney would not say when a decision would be made.

Read More on the Story:
Interior promises update on Mashpee tribe land review in 30 days (The Cape Cod Times February 21, 2018)

Federal Court Decision:
District Court of Massachusetts: Littlefield v. Department of the Interior (July 28, 2016)

Supreme Court Decision in Carcieri v. Salazar:
Syllabus | Opinion [Thomas] | Concurrence [Breyer] | Dissent [Stevens] | Concurrence/Dissent [Souter]

Department of the Interior Solicitor Opinion:
M-37029: The Meaning of "Under Federal Jurisdiction" for Purposes of the Indian Reorganization Act (March 12, 2014)

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