Aquinnah Wampanoags partner with NY tribe in casino effort

Boston, Massachussetts (AP) 10-07

The Aquinnah Wampanoags, one of the state’s two federally recognized Indian tribes, is bringing in a New York tribe to help it land a casino license in Massachusetts.

The Seneca Nation of Indians, which operates three casinos in upstate New York, will work with the Aquinnah Wampanoags to obtain a casino license if lawmakers approve Gov. Deval Patrick’s legislation bringing three resort casinos to Massachusetts.

The partnership was announced during October in Boston.

“Unlike other proposals, an Aquinnah Wampanoag casino will be a locally owned and locally developed project that ensures that the significant economic benefits remain in the commonwealth, and are not solely enjoyed by outside interests,” said Aquinnah Wampanoag tribal Chairman Donald Widdiss.

The state’s other recognized tribe, the Mashpee Wampanoag, wants to build a casino in Middleborough, and has partnered with South African casino and resort magnate Sol Kerzner.

Patrick’s bill proposes to give preference to any bidder that partners with a Massachusetts Indian tribe.

Widdiss said the tribe wants to build a casino in southeastern Massachusetts, but hasn’t ruled out other regions.

The Seneca Gaming Corp., established in 2002 as the tribe’s development arm, operates casinos in Niagara Falls, Salamanca and Buffalo.

Under the partnership announced, the Seneca will help the Aquinnah Wampanoag analyze market conditions, obtain financing, negotiate with public officials and secure a license, which would be auctioned by the state under Patrick’s proposal.

“We have a proven track record of bringing casino projects to completion in neighboring New York,” said Maurice John Sr., president of the Seneca Nation.

“We are very honored to be working with the Aquinnah Wampanoag and we want to help the Wampanoag replicate that success here in Massachusetts,” John said. “Our casinos are beautifully designed and constructed, and faithful to the cultural traditions of Native Americans.”

Scott Ferson, a spokesman for the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, did not immediately return an after hours call by The Associated Press seeking comment.