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In Race to Open Massachusetts' First Resort Casino, Tribe Takes the Lead


Massachusetts may welcome a tribal resort casino a full year prior to its commercial competitors.

On Monday, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe announced plans to open its proposed resort casino south of Boston by summer 2017. Rivals Wynn Resorts and MGM are projected to open in late 2018, at earliest, due to a series of setbacks, reported Wynn Resorts plans to develop a $1.7 billion casino north of Boston on the Everett waterfront, and MGM plans to erect a $950 million gaming resort in Springfield in western Massachusetts.

The Cape Cod-based tribe additionally unveiled new design plans, featuring two rectangular glass hotel towers, a casino building and a parking garage. A wetu, the dome-shaped traditional home of the Wampanoag made of cedar saplings, will grace the casino's main entry.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe also revealed that the resort will be run by Malaysia-based casino operator Genting Group, one of the early financiers of the Mashantucket Tribe's Foxwoods Resort Casino, based in neighboring Connecticut.

“Genting is putting up millions and millions and millions, and has never stopped believing in our goal,” Mashpee Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell told the Massachusetts Gaming Commission at a special meeting on the casino project at the tribe’s headquarters, reported The Boston Globe.

Genting's financial involvement has been known, but its management role is news. The ultimate goal is for Genting to get the casino resort up and running and eventually turn over control to the tribe. “Genting will operate the tribal casino on behalf of the tribe,” said Kevin C. Jones, president of Genting Massachusetts. “We will operate the casino while helping to build up the capacity of the tribe to operate it themselves. Our role is to work ourselves out of a job on behalf of the tribe.”

Ground breaking on the Mashpee Wampanoag's $500 million First Light Casino in Taunton is scheduled for April 5. Construction will take place in four phases. The first phase, slated to debut next summer, will include the casino, restaurants, entertainment and retail shops. The proposed hotels, a parking garage and water park will be built out through 2022, a tribal spokesman said.

First Light Resort & Casino will cover roughly 151 acres within an industrial park in Taunton. The land was included in the more than 300 acres that the federal government recently placed in tribal trust. Massachusetts Gaming and Entertainment (MGE) is currently challenging that federal decision in court. MGE is seeking a state gambling license for a $677 million resort casino in nearby Brockton.