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(NECN: Jennifer Eagan, Lakeville, Mass.) - Roughly 200 residents from Lakeville and Freetown, Mass. sat through an hour-long presentation for a casino to be run by the Aquinnah tribe in their communities.
They viewed slides laying out the process which were complicated and confusing. Then the meeting was opened up to questions and comments from residents.
"This is small town America at its best, and we want it to stay that way," said Rhonda Silvia-Alves of Freetown.
The Aquinnah are proposing a $170 million casino built on roughly 50 acres. The complex would include a hotel and casino boosting slot machines and table games. The Aquinnah also say more than 2,200 jobs related to construction and operation would be created, a prospect some residents were interested in.
"We want a project that everyone can be proud of," said Aquinnah Tribe Chairwoman Cheryl Andrews-Maltais.
The proposal came down quickly in these communities. Town officials received a request to hold a vote to gauge resident interest at the beginning of March. The votes are scheduled for May 29 in Freetown and June 2 in Lakeville.
Many residents feel they just do not have enough information and their questions were not answered at the meeting.
"I don’t see how we can vote on a project we know nothing about," said Sally Massa.
The Aquinnah tribe says they cannot gather and present more details without a yes vote.
The Aquinnah Wampanoag are competing with their Native American cousins, the Mashpee Wampanoag, for the casino license designated for Southeastern Massachusetts.
The Mashpee have proposed a larger $500 million casino in Taunton, Mass. The tribes get the first crack at the Southeastern license, but must meet a few deadlines, one being a compact negotiated with the state by July 31.
Gov. Patrick is not negotiating with the Aquinnah because of the state’s interpretation of an agreement from the 1980s. The Aquinnah reached an agreement with the state in order to be recognized federally. The Massachusetts Attorney General interpreted that agreement in 1997 and concluded that the Aquinnah had forfeited their gaming rights. So they are not at the table now.
The Aquinnah may threaten to sue.