In the wake of the IGRA, Indian gaming has expanded exponentially due to its ability to jumpstart economic development on reservations and its potential for immense financial success. In Massachusetts, because casino gambling is currently illegal, no Indian tribes operate gaming facilities. Before the federal government legally recognized the Mashpee Wampanoag, a Massachusetts tribe, the tribe expressed interest in pursuing casino gaming. Upon receiving federal recognition, the Mashpee quickly negotiated an intergovernmental agreement with the Town of Middleborough to build a destination-resort casino. Another Massachusetts tribe, the Aquinnah Wampanoag, have also actively pursued their own gaming facility.
Per the IGRA’s requirements, Massachusetts must legalize casino gaming before any tribe can open a casino through the federal process. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick supports casino gaming in the Commonwealth and has proposed legislation to place three commercial casino licenses up for bid. Patrick’s proposed legislation reserves at least one of the licensed casinos for a tribe. As a result, casino gambling and Indian gaming may come to Massachusetts; however, it is unclear whether the Mashpee or the Aquinnah will bid on a state license or, alternatively, continue with the federal application process. Ultimately, the Massachusetts legislature must consider whether to legalize casino-style gaming in the form of tribal casinos or commercial casinos, while remaining cognizant that a federally recognized tribe may establish any gaming operation permitted under Massachusetts law.
Part II of this Note will examine the legal relationship between the federal government and American Indians in the historical context of Indian gaming. Further, this Note will recount Massachusetts’s gaming history, culminating in the recent state and tribal efforts to establish casino gaming. In light of developments in other states, Part III will anticipate the different forms that Indian gaming and commercial gaming may take in Massachusetts. Finally, this Note will assess the goals of the IGRA as they pertain to Massachusetts’s potential gaming developments and also predict which scenario represents the most effective compromise between the tribes and Commonwealth. . . .