Within hours of signing a new casino law, the state has been sued in federal court by a developer opposed to a provision that gives the Mashpee Wampanoag a leg up in opening a casino in Southeastern Massachusetts.
The new law gives the tribe nearly a year to reach an agreement with the state before opening the third casino license to private developers. State officials have said they believe the tribe has a federal right to open a casino, and that the law is simply taking that into account.
The suit was filed today by KG Urban Enterprises against Governor Deval Patrick and the state gambling commission that will be created under the new law claims the state is violating the equal protection clause of the Constitution, according to a company spokesman. It also claims the law violates “the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights because it contains numerous explicit, race-based set-asides that give federally recognized Indian tribes a categorical advantage over all other applicants in seeking a commercial gaming license in Southeastern Massachusetts.”
KG Urban Enterprises has proposed redeveloping a former power plant in New Bedford into a full-scale casino.
Asked about a potential for a lawsuit this morning, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo defended the Native American provision, but expressed some concern that a suit could stall the opening of new casinos. “It could in actuality slow down the process,” he said.
DeLeo said the law was reviewed extensively by attorneys.
Noah Bierman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @noahbierman.