Brockton, Mass., is known as the birthplace of boxing legend Rocky Marciano. But with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren pushing for a $1 billion Native American casino less than 20 miles away, struggling blue-collar Brockton's competing casino bid might not stand a fighting chance.
Brockton Mayor William Carpenter slammed Warren’s bill on behalf of the Masphee Wampanoag tribe, which would override a federal judge's decision last year to block the tribe’s plan for a luxury gaming resort in East Taunton.
He says Warren seems to be acting on behalf of special interests instead of people like Brockton's struggling residents.
“Year after year we’re running multimillion-dollar deficits in our budget. We’ve laid off schoolteachers for three years in a row,” Carpenter told the Washington Times. “We desperately need the revenue."
“Year after year we’re running multimillion-dollar deficits in our budget. We’ve laid off schoolteachers for three years in a row. We desperately need the revenue."
Warren's bill is reportedly being lobbied by the Genting Group, which has already poured $400 million into the tribe’s First Light Resort and Casino project – but could lose it all if the federal government fails to grant the land to the tribe, the Times reported.
Brockton’s bid for a casino was rejected two years ago by the state gaming commission over concerns that the market could become oversaturated if the tribal casino wins federal approval. The town has since made the bid again.
The Interior Department could also block Brockton’s bid as it started looking into other legal ways the land could be taken in trust on the tribe’s behalf.
Meanwhile, some residents in East Taunton say they don't even want the luxury casino built in their town.
Michelle Littlefield, of East Taunton, is waging a legal challenge together with other 25 residents to block the tribal casino project, claiming the Interior Department’s actions are “designed to give a special-interest group special preference.”
“We are up against a foreign company that’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars,” Littlefield told the Times. “It’s a bottomless well on the other side. From day one, we’ve been the underdog, and the only thing we’ve ever had on our side was the law,” she added, blasting the attempts to override the ruling blocking the project.
“We are up against a foreign company that’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s a bottomless well on the other side. From day one, we’ve been the underdog, and the only thing we’ve ever had on our side was the law.”
David Tennant, attorney for the East Taunton residents, said “there’s been this kind of perpetual, ‘Hey, maybe the tribe can get qualified in some other way, maybe on remand with Interior, maybe Congress can step in and do something for them.’
“And all of this is to the detriment of Brockton, which lined up its ducks years ago and had somebody ready to go. This kind of perpetual preference for a tribal casino is now running well past the clock that the federal court said would be an equal protection violation,” he added.
Mayor Carpenter says that while the East Taunton residents are skeptical of the project, his struggling town would happily welcome it.
“It’s a blue-collar immigrant city where two years ago, 80 percent of the students in our school system qualified for free or reduced lunch,” he said. “Our unemployment rate runs about 50 percent above the statewide average historically, and we’re a majority-minority city.”
He campaigned on behalf of his town this week on Capitol Hill, urging lawmakers to oppose the Warren-backed Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act.
It might not be enough, however, as the legislation has gathered support from 18 lawmakers in the House, though only Warren and Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., have endorsed it in the Senate, according to the Enterprise News.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is reportedly set to grant only three casino licenses in total, all in different regions of the state. Brockton and East Taunton are less than 20 miles apart, meaning if one town wins the license, the other won’t be able to pursue plans for a casino.
Carpenter said he’s annoyed that his town could lose out to a casino license because of unfair “special treatment” of the tribe.
“The whole thing just seems unfair to me,” he told the Times. “I don’t know if Brockton will ultimately be granted the license or not from the state gaming commission, but I know our opportunities should not be taken away by a piece of special-interest legislation.”
“The whole thing just seems unfair to me. I don’t know if Brockton will ultimately be granted the license or not from the state gaming commission, but I know our opportunities should not be taken away by a piece of special-interest legislation.”
Warren, who previously opposed legalized gambling in her state, began championing the bill amid concerns about her unproven Native American ancestry, which were amplified by President Donald Trump.