New Bedford draws more casino interest 5-22-07

BOSTON (AP) - The Mashpee Wampanoag Indians could have competition if they select New Bedford as a location for a casino, after a separate casino developer bought control of some waterfront property.

The tribe is considering New Bedford, Middleborough and other southeast Massachusetts communities as a location for a resort casino. It has already scooped up 325 acres in Middleborough, but is still in talks with New Bedford officials.

Northeast Resorts, a company owned by developer Leon Dragone of East Longmeadow and Steven Norton of Las Vegas, has bought an option on the Revere Copper Products Inc., a metal working company founded by Paul Revere. The waterfront plant is closing.

Northeast Resorts, which also owns 152 acres in the western Massachusetts town of Palmer, purchased an option, for an undisclosed amount, on the nearly 14-acre site, Dragone said, and can now block offers for the Revere plant.

Clyde Barrow, head of the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, said it's a smart move by Dragone and Norton.

“Somebody's going to have to negotiate with them eventually,” said Barrow, who has studied the effects of casino gambling.

Dragone said the acreage he now controls sits among the 95 acres that city officials are shopping to the Mashpee Wampanoags.

“We have the key acreage,” he said. “We see that as a lot of potential with and without gaming.”

Tribal council chairman Glenn Marshall, who met with New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang on Monday night, said the tribe wants to build a resort destination similar to Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. The tribe's federal recognition becomes official this week.

Marshall also met with Middleborough residents at a town meeting on Tuesday night.

Lang said Dragone's move “may or may not conform to what the city is trying to do... It adds a complication to the work we're trying to do.”

The tribe and its main investor, Detroit casino developer Herb Strather, have agreed to buy 125 acres from the town of Middleborough for $1.76 million. The tribe also bought an option for 200 adjacent acres. The tribe's deadline to complete the deal for the 125 acres is early June.

Tribal leaders need Beacon Hill lawmakers to pass legislation allowing them to build a casino. Even without legislative approval, federal recognition gives the tribe the right to operate bingo parlors within 50 miles of its tribal home on Cape Cod.

Gov. Deval Patrick has a task force examining whether to support an expansion of legal gambling beyond the Massachusetts Lottery and the state's four racetracks. He expects a report by the end of the summer.