Casino plans unveiled in Taunton

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe unveiled its latest plans for a half-billion dollar casino in Taunton Tuesday night in front of the city council.

Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell said, "We will build a first class destination resort casino. Throughout the design process we have carefully taken into account the needs of the city and input of residents."

The plans call for two hotels, a water park, and road construction the tribe claims would actually improve traffic in the area.

The Mashpees claim the proposed project at the interchange of Routes 24 and 140 would create 1000 construction jobs, more than 2,600 permanent jobs, and pump $140 million into the regional economy every year.

"I think it's exciting and it's good not just for the city of Taunton, but southeastern Massachusetts. We need job creation," Taunton Mayor Tom Hoye told NBC 10.

Under a deal with the city, Taunton would get at least $8 million a year. The tribe made a deal with the governor to pay 17 percent of gambling revenue to the state. It's a deal that has not yet been approved by lawmakers.

The biggest hurdle may be the Mashpee's quest to get the land taken into federal trust in what can be a complicated, uncertain, and lengthy process.

The tribe claims it has the standing to get approval and expects the go-ahead from the feds by early next year at the latest.

Opponents who don't want to give up local control of the land to a sovereign tribe question the claims. "This is smoke and mirrors people, that's all you're seeing, smoke and mirrors. Never ever having a casino in Taunton," said resident Dave Littlefield of the group Preserve Taunton's Future.

But Cromwell said the tribe is very confident about getting the land taken into trust. "First and foremost, the critics aren't working on our land-in-trust application. So they don't know anything," he said.

The tribe claims it can open a casino within 18 months of getting the land approval from the government.

Last month, the state gaming commission opened up the possibility of a commercial gaming bid in the southeastern region of Massachusetts, taking away what had been the Mashpees exclusive access to get a casino deal done.

Cromwell claims the tribe is well ahead of any other casino project in the Commonwealth.