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Massachusetts Tribal Gaming

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe started construction on the First Light Resort and Casino in May 2016 after it successfully negotiated a compact with the state and was granted approval from the local authorities and the U.S. Department of the Interior. In July 2016, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the federal government overstepped its authority when it took land into trust for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and that only tribes federally recognized before 1934 can be eligible for reservation lands.

In 2019, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe sought on the federal level to reinstate its land trust and resume construction on its casino.

In March 2020, a U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a 2016 decision by a lower federal court against the transfer of land in 2015 by the Mashpee Tribe into federal trust. Later that month, the U.S. Department of Interior changed its course to transfer the Mashpee Wampanoag land into a reservation.

In April 2020, a Washington D.C. federal district judge halted the reversal of land trust. In June 2020, the judge ordered the department to review the matter and issue new findings.

In December 2021, the Interior Department ruled that the 2015 land transfer into federal trust was valid; however, the legal status remains in trust.

In February 2022, an anti-casino group of Taunton filed a federal appeals lawsuit to halt the casino construction and the project remains tied up in litigation.

In January 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Massachusetts’ case against the Aquinnah Tribe building a casino on their land on Martha’s Vineyard. In 2019, the Martha Vineyard Commission ruled that the Aquinnah Tribe must follow local zoning laws and acquire proper building permits. In February 2021, the appeals court upheld this decision and in March 2021, the Aquinnah Tribe appealed.

The Aquinnah Cliffs Casino project remains on hold pending building permits from Martha’s Vineyard.
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