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Governor, tribe reach agreement on gambling compact

Governor Deval Patrick has reached an agreement in principle with the Mashpee Wampanoag over the terms by which a tribal casino would ­operate in Taunton, the governor said during a radio appearance Thursday on WGBH. The deal is still being finalized, and terms were not disclosed.

The agreement, known as a compact, would replace an earlier deal rejected by the federal government for being too onerous for the tribe.

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Patrick’s disclosure comes one week before the state gambling commission opens a long-anticipated debate on whether to accept proposals from commercial casino developers in Southeastern Massachusetts, a change the tribe has strongly opposed.

“We need to brief the [legislative] leadership just to make sure they’re comfortable with where we’ve landed and work out what the legislative calendar would be for getting it ­approved,” Patrick said. “But we may be able to sign that in the next few days.”

Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag, said in a statement that the proposed agreement will go to the Tribal Council for approval.

“This is yet another significant step for our tribe, and we are excited about our momentum towards bringing good jobs to our tribe, Taunton, and Southeastern Massachusetts,” he said.

A signed compact does not enable the tribe to open a casino, and legal obstacles remain for the Mashpee Wampanoag. The tribe does not have reservation land that would qualify to host tribal gambling, and the authority of the federal government to create new reservations is in question.

Legal cases that could clarify the matter may be years from concluding.

The state gambling commission has the authority to ­license a commercial casino in the southeast if it concludes the Wampanoag are unlikely to overcome the legal hurdles.

Stephen Crosby, chairman of the gambling commission, said the panel will proceed next Thursday with its scheduled debate on opening the southeast to commercial ­casino bidders.

Mark Arsenault can be reached at marsenault@globe.com.
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