Mashpee Wampanoags, Middleborough to resume casino talks 7-07

MIDDLEBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) - Middleborough officials and the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe planned to resume talks on July 12, after the tribe this week rejected a counteroffer from the town on a financial deal to support a casino.

"We're looking forward to a productive dialogue," Town Planner Ruth Geoffroy, who is on the negotiating team, told The Enterprise of Brockton.

Tribal spokesman Scott Ferson said the tribe still hopes to have an agreement in place for a July 28 town meeting at which residents are scheduled to vote on the casino.

In a Wednesday letter to town selectmen, tribal council Chairman Glenn Marshall said Middleborough officials had become "unnecessarily hostile" in their request for millions of dollars in additional benefits.

The letter the tribe would not deviate from the original June 11 offer of $7 million a year for 10 years and $150 million in casino-related infrastructure improvements. In exchange, the town would back the tribe's efforts to build a $1 billion resort casino in the community.

The town's July 3 counteroffer, in which it requests up to $250 million in infrastructure improvements and an undisclosed percentage of casino revenues that could amount to considerably more than $7 million annually, would "strip the tribe of the very sovereignty it has fought so hard to secure," Marshall wrote.

But he also indicated that Middleborough is still the tribe's choice for a resort casino to rival the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos in Connecticut and called for "common ground for a mutually beneficial agreement."

The tribe has in the past said it would also consider New Bedford, and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said Thursday he would be open to talking with the tribe about bringing a casino to Boston's Suffolk Downs.

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.

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.