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Patrick to lobby US government on behalf of Mashpee casino

Governor Deval Patrick today pledged to lobby the federal government on behalf of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, which is seeking permission from the Department of the Interior to open a tribal casino in Taunton.

“I’m going to be working with the tribe to try to get a prompt resolution,” the governor promised this morning in a meeting with reporters.

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Patrick and the tribe on Wednesday announced they had finalized months of negotiations over the terms under which the tribe could operate a casino. The agreement, known as a compact, is a key step toward winning federal approval.

Patrick said he signed the compact this morning. He will ask the Legislature to approve it by the end of the month.

The agreement does not, in itself, guarantee there will ever be a tribal casino in Taunton — the tribe still must overcome legal obstacles to obtaining land. Tribal gambling may only take place on sovereign Native American land, and the Mashpee have none that qualifies.

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The tribe has asked the federal government to take the proposed Taunton casino site into trust on the tribe’s behalf, which would make the land eligible to host tribal gambling.

But the land-in-trust procedure could take years, and may not even be possible due to a 2009 Supreme Court ruling that severely restricts the government’s ability to take land into trust.

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