“We border on being an economic Appalachia,” Koczera said.
For its part, the Wampanoag question whether the commission even has the authority to open up the bidding ahead of the government’s land-in-trust decision.
The Wampanoag also dispute that the land-in-trust process will take years. In a letter from their lawyer, Howard Cooper, delivered to Crosby on Thursday, the tribe listed procedural markers it has already cleared, laid out a timeline for the others and noted that federal officials have vowed a speedy review.
The tribe said it expects a favorable land-in-trust decision by early 2014, when it will immediately move forward with the project. The only way to slow it down, Cooper said, will be if opponents seek a preliminary injunction to stop development. But he predicts that will fail.
“The soundness of the trust application of the Mashpee will overcome any request for a preliminary injunction,” Cooper wrote.
State Sen. Marc Pacheco of Taunton said it’s too early for the commission to open up the region, especially with the tribe making progress. Just Tuesday, he noted, the tribe reached agreement with Taunton officials about the specifics of their partnership. This, while the two other regions don’t yet know where their casinos will be located because they have competing bidders.
Pacheco said he is not sure how long is too long to extend the tribe’s exclusive rights, but that time hasn’t come.
“They have been ahead of the game,” he said.