A decision on whether a Native American tribe in Massachusetts can continue building a US$1-billion casino slated to be run by Genting Malaysia Bhd rests with a federal judge in the United States, after casino opponents and the federal government made their case at a Monday court hearing.
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is developing the First Light Resort and Casino (pictured in a rendering) in Taunton, located approximately 64.4 kilometres (40 miles) south of Boston, Massachusetts. The tribe held a ground breaking ceremony for the scheme in April.
Casino operator Genting Malaysia confirmed in April that it would be managing the casino at the First Light resort for a period of seven years. Tribal leaders have said they plan to have a portion of the casino open for business by the summer of 2017.
On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge William Young promised a quick decision in the lawsuit, which was filed by a group of Taunton property owners in February, reported the Boston Globe newspaper.
According to the media outlet, the suit contends that the federal government in 2015 wrongly designated as a Native American reservation the land where the casino is being developed.
The Mashpee Wampanoag is a Native American tribe from Massachusetts that was officially recognised by the U.S. federal government in 2007. Building a casino on land that has been designated as a Native American reservation does not require the state’s permission. The tribe is not a party to the lawsuit.
The First Light project includes a 150,000-square-feet (13,935-sq-metres) casino, featuring 3,000 slot machines, 150 gaming tables and 40 poker tables, according to a filing from Genting Malaysia. The casino will be managed by one of Genting Malaysia’s subsidiaries, Genting Massachusetts LLC.
Genting Malaysia has said that it does not have any equity interest in the First Light scheme. The company has invested US$249.5 million in interest-bearing promissory notes issued by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Gaming Authority for the initial development phase of the casino resort, the firm had said in April.
Judge Young said on Monday he would probably issue a decision by the end of July, reported the Boston Globe.
Casino operators with Macau interests are also developing projects in the state of Massachusetts. Wynn Resorts Ltd – the parent company of Wynn Macau Ltd – has plans for a US$1.7-billion casino project in the city of Everett on the outskirts of Boston.
MGM Resorts International – the parent company of MGM China Holdings Ltd – broke ground in March last year on its US$950 million MGM Springfield project in Massachusetts.
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