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Mass. town backs casino

A deal with the newly recognized Mashpee tribe could bring in millions of dollars.

July 29, 2007|From the Associated Press

MIDDLEBOROUGH, MASS. — Voters overwhelmingly endorsed a deal with an American Indian tribe Saturday that could bring casino gambling to the state and millions of dollars to the struggling, rural community.

Residents gathered at a quintessential rural New England event, the Town Meeting, and voted 2,387 to 1,335 in favor of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe's $1-billion casino in this town of about 20,000.

In exchange, the town would receive $250 million in infrastructure improvements and an estimated $11 million in annual payments, among other benefits.

Significant hurdles remain, however. The tribe, which officially received federal recognition in May after more than three decades of fighting for it, still needs state and federal approval for the casino.

Gov. Deval Patrick has not said whether he would support legalizing casino gaming in Massachusetts, and state Treasurer Tim Cahill has said Middleborough's vote is in some ways "a hypothetical exercise." He also said he didn't think the town would get a big enough cut under the current deal.

Even without state approval, the tribe by virtue of being federally recognized could operate bingo parlors in Middleborough because it's within 50 miles of its tribal home on Cape Cod.

Saturday's vote came after about 2 1/2 hours of debate on an athletic field behind the high school where residents gathered for the Town Meeting.

Casino advocates argued it was a lucrative deal and a tremendous opportunity for the struggling town. Opponents said the deal wasn't generous enough and was reached without sufficient public input.

The tribe has bought 125 acres of town land, has an option to buy another 200 contiguous acres, and has approached another landowner about a 200-acre abutting tract.

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