Tribe wants slice of New England pie

May 22, 2007 4:18 AM

Two of the country’s richest casinos have dominated the New England casino market, but a tribe in Massachusetts is seeking a healthy slice of the gaming pie.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Indian tribe is planning to build a mega resort similar to Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Middleborough, about 40 miles southeast of Boston.

The planned casino, situated on 350 wooded acres, would include a 1,500-room five-star hotel, at least 3,000 slot machines, dozens of table games, restaurants, lounges, entertainment, golf courses, a health spa, shopping, and convention space — all easily accessed off Interstate 495.

Tribal leaders estimated the resort would rake in $700 million a year, of which, $100 million would be funneled into state coffers. Opening is targeted for 2010.

The deal needs to be worked out with the state of Massachusetts, but Clyde Barrow, a gambling specialist at the University of Massachusetts, said it is economically plausible.

From a political standpoint, the tribe’s strongest argument may be the amount of money Massachusetts residents are already spending in the Connecticut casinos — close to a $1 billion a year, which translates into $119 million a year for the Connecticut state budget.

Barrow said those figures could increase as Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are both undergoing $1.4 billion dollar expansions.

Enter the Wampanoags, who hope to do in Massachusetts what the Pequot and Mohegan tribes have done in Connecticut.

Still, opposition is likely to come from those who fear the social ramifications of gambling, increases in traffic, and even a possible threat to the lucrative Massachusetts Lottery game.