Wampanoag tribe encouraged after state gets 1 commercial casino application

An artist’s rendering of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s proposed $500 million casino in Taunton. The tribe hopes to secure the state’s sole casino license for the Southeast Region. (Photo courtesy of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe)

An artist’s rendering of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s proposed $500 million casino in Taunton. The tribe hopes to secure the state’s sole casino license for the Southeast Region. (Photo courtesy of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe)

An artist’s rendering of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s proposed $500 million casino in Taunton. The tribe hopes to secure the state’s sole casino license for the Southeast Region. (Photo courtesy of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe)[/caption]

The state’s deadline for commercial casino developers to apply for the Southeastern Massachusetts license passed Monday with only application, from commercial developer KG Urban Enterprises.

KG Urban, identified in their application as KG New Bedford, LLC, will now be the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s only competition for Region C’s single license. Tribal officials said Monday that the dearth of other applicants is good news for their plan to build a $500 million resort and casino in Taunton.

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“This news is confirmation that the industry has spoken and the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has the winning hand,” tribal chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a telephone interview.

The tribe is currently waiting for their revenue-sharing compact with Governor Deval Patrick to move forward in the state legislature. It got favorable review in the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies in September, after months of delay. The compact dictates that the tribe would give 15 to 21 percent of casino revenue to the state.

Cromwell said the tribe’s plan is still years ahead of any other, meaning the state would delay much-needed job growth and economic development by giving the license to a different developer, such as KG Urban.

“When you look at all these other potential plans, that’s all they are – potential plans,” Cromwell said, referring not only to the KG Urban in the Southeastern region but to other casino plans statewide. “What is the site going to look like? How far are they with their environmental [impact studies]? Where’s their investment? … We can speak to all those. No one comes close to where we’re at.”

KG Urban submitted the required $400,000 fee along with their plan to the state gaming commission. They hope to build a casino in New Bedford. The gaming commission now needs to vet that proposal, a process that includes background checks and other measures of whether the proposed casino will be “suitable” for Region C.

KG Urban has been an outspoken critic of the Wampanoag tribe’s collaboration with the state, saying the prerogative given to the tribe violates the equal rights clause of the Constitution. Cromwell would not comment on the tribe’s outlook for competing specifically with KG Urban. But he said he is confident the tribe will be able to have “shovels in the ground” in Taunton by next summer.

“We’ve always been confident, but now the market has spoken,” he said. “It’s further recognition that our project is ahead of any other development in the state. Otherwise, there would be plenty of applications for Region C.”

The gaming commission said in a news release Monday that they are on track to decide who gets the Region C license by the end of 2014.