The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe made a strong moral case that it deserved a head start in the casino race in Southeastern Massachusetts. But the tribe has been unable to capitalize on the leg up it was granted in the 2011 legislation. Now, it is lashing out at the state Gaming Commission for opening the process to other bidders. This misstep could backfire against the tribe, and it ought to tone down its rhetoric now.
The casino legislation gave Native American tribes a year-long exclusive window to win the Southeastern Massachusetts casino license, one of three licenses in the state. In practice, only the Mashpee Wampanoag were in a position to cobble together a casino deal in that time frame. Lawmakers saw the provision as a way to help the tribe, which has suffered from centuries of poverty and oppression, without simply reserving a license for them.