As a federally recognized tribe, we place great value in our legally protected right to conduct gaming in our ancestral homeland. We intend to exercise this right not only for the benefit of our people, but for everyone in southeastern Massachusetts — a region that desperately needs economic development and jobs.
Studies have shown that our project will not only have a positive economic impact on Taunton, but on New Bedford, Fall River, Brockton and the entire southeastern Massachusetts region. We expect construction to begin next year, which will create a minimum of 1,000 construction-industry jobs.
We also want to broaden the economic benefits. We plan on partnering with local chambers of commerce to create a regional marketing program to boost tourism throughout the region. Once we open, 2,500 people will begin promising careers at our destination resort casino. In addition, we plan on contracting with small businesses throughout the area for supplies, goods and services.
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe very much appreciates the concern that some officials have expressed about any potential delays in developing a resort casino in southeastern Massachusetts.
We share the Gaming Commission’s desire to see real progress in every region of the state. We understand that it is part of its job to think about and speculate on all the various angles and possibilities that could occur in each region.
However, the destination resort casino that we have proposed for southeastern Massachusetts is much further along than any other project in the state. We are making significant progress.
The project is already under design. The development plans are now under environmental review by federal and state officials. We have already reached a host agreement with the city of Taunton, and the voters have overwhelmingly approved the project. Mitigation funds have already been set aside, and we have already issued the first payment to Taunton.
It is our expectation that we will be ready to break ground next year once the federal government approves our land in trust application. By then, the state Legislature will have had plenty of time to act on a revised compact. So far, the delays in finalizing an agreement have not affected our overall construction schedule.
While we appreciate the concern over delays in developing resort casinos in all regions in the commonwealth, it is our project in Taunton that has actually made the most progress to date. Our tribe has made a significant investment of time and money to move this project forward. Yet at the same time, our progress is also due to the hard work of many people, including Gov. Deval Patrick, the Massachusetts Legislature, the people of Taunton, the city’s friends and neighbors, and its mayor, Tom Hoye.
We have every intention of keeping up this brisk pace and within the next 12 months we will start revitalizing the economy of southeastern Massachusetts — a place we love and have called our home for thousands of years.
Cedric Cromwell is chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.