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Decision postponed on Southeastern Mass. casino license

The state Gambling Commission today postponed a vote on whether to end the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s exclusive right to develop a casino in Southeastern Massachusetts, a move taken despite demands from other companies who want to bid for the license themselves.

After lengthy discussion, the board agreed to create a two week long comment period to give the public time to weigh in on whether continuing the exclusive agreement for the tribe is harming the region economically.

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The Mashpee recently reached agreement with the Patrick administration over the state’s share of gambling revenue from the casino it hopes to build in Taunton, but still faces substantial hurdles, including its effort to put its Taunton land into federal trust.

If the commission opens the region to commercial bidders, the Mashpee could continue to pursue a tribal casino, through a federal process mostly outside state control. But the tribe would lose its exclusive hold on the market.

Under the deal with Governor Deval Patrick, known as a compact, the Mashpee would pay nothing to the state if a commercial resort casino opens in the Southeast. The tribe would pay 15 percent of revenue if the Gambling Commission licensed a commercial slot parlor in Southeastern Massachusetts, a realistic possibility with a pending slot applicant in Raynham.

The state’s financial take from the Mashpee, while lower than what was proposed in 2012, is still steep compared with compacts signed by other tribes around the country.

State lawmakers in 2011 created the ban on commercial casinos in the Southeast to give the tribe first shot at casino development there.

Those who want to end the ban say the Mashpee face a long and uncertain road to a tribal casino, regardless of the new compact, and that the Southeast may miss out on jobs and economic development.

The Gambling Commission must seek bids for a commercial casino in the region if it concludes the Mashpee will be unable to overcome legal hurdles to hosting a tribal gambling business.

Mark Arsenault can be reached at MArsenault@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @BostonGlobeMark. John R. Ellement can be reached atellement@globe.com.
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