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Massachusetts Tribal Gambling Compact Rejected By Feds

Governor Deval Patrick has shown himself to be one of the biggest proponents of gambling expansion that Massachusetts has ever seen. That does not mean that the governor has won all of his battles involving gambling expansion.

This week, the US Department of Interior rejected a compact that was agreed upon between the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and Governor Patrick. The compact would have allowed the tribe to build a casino in Taunton, but now the two sides must go back to the drawing board.

"The compact calls for us to resume negotiations in the face of a federal disapproval and requires legislative approval of any renegotiated compact," said Patrick, in a statement after the ruling. "Those conversations will begin in earnest as we work with our partners in the legislature to determine the next steps."

The denial of the original compact came from the Bureau of Indian Affairs' questioned the concessions given to the state for the right to operate the gambling facility. The department also claims some of the wording in the compact did not comply with federal laws. It was a setback for a state that has grown fond of gambling expansion over the past few years.

When Governor Patrick took office, he promised Massachusetts residents that he would expand gambling in the form of casino resorts. He delivered on that promise earlier this year when Patrick, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Senate President finally agreed to terms of a gambling bill after two years of unproductive negotiations.

The major sticking point that cost the state and the Mashpee tribe the compact was the 21.5% tax rate the tribe was willing to pay Massachusetts. That tax rate is on the high end of recent compacts signed in other states, and the fear is that the number would continue to creep up in future negotiations.

An actual tax rate is illegal, and compacts get around that law by offering the tribe something of value in exchange for the percentage paid to the state. In the case of the rejected Massachusetts compact, the exchange would have been the 21.5% for the right to operate a casino in the Southeastern part of the state.

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