Mark Your Calendars for Casino Plan

We’ve already begun to get an idea about what casinos in Massachusetts will look like. Suffolk Downs has been upfront about the scale they’d like to develop, as has the Mohegan tribe, which recently released some details about their plan for a casino in Palmer.

But it seems that the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is poised to offer the most detailed plan, by far. By the first week of March—and perhaps sooner—they will have rolled out schematics on a plan for their Middleborough site. Details will include the location, height and size of buildings, as well as where the roadways will run and the locations of any other large footprint items, like golf courses.

According to officials at the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, the tribe will have to make these plans public in open hearings as part of the environmental review process for their efforts to put their Middleborough land into trust. (This is the process which transfers the land from state to Indian control, thus allowing the tribe to open a casino on it). The hearings will be held the evenings of March 4, in Middleborough High School auditorium, and March 5, in the Mashpee High School auditorium.

“If plans are ready before that, then they’ll be made available so people can comment,” says Scott Ferson, the Mashpee spokesman.

So, with hearings still over a month away, why bring it up now? Because not only are the Mashpee likely to unveil their blueprints before the expected date, but so are other prospective casino developers.

UMass Dartmouth professor and gambling expert Clyde Barrow says that once the first plans start to tip out, we can expect to see a “deluge” of architectural renderings, blueprints, and economic impact analyses from other potential casino bidders.

“Part of this is to be used as a marketing and lobbying campaigning,” Barrow says. In other words, as Gov. Deval Patrick’s casino legislation starts to slog its way through the state legislature, casino developers will be trying to win over reps with dazzling images and plans of what could be.

As for the March hearings, there will be presentations from a Bureau of Indian Affairs environmental scientist, the contractor hired to perform the environmental review on the Mashpee proposal, and tribal representatives.

According to Jim Kardatzke, the BIA environmental branch chief for the eastern region, the environmental review will cover everything from rain-water run-off to the economic impact on the local community. Literally anything that could affect the surrounding area as a result of the placement of the casino, he said, will be considered.

There is one other wrinkle to these hearings. After the Bureau and tribal officials are done speaking, any member of the public who has something to say will be welcomed to the podium.

“People are generally very nice and civil, so it doesn’t get out of hand,” says Kardatzke. Bear in mind that Kardatzke is based out of Tennessee, and is thus unacquainted with the curious and cantankerous ways of the Bay Stater. But we like his optimism anyway.