Why the Bridgewater Casino Rumor Won't Die

For months now, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has been on the hunt for a site in southeastern Massachusetts to build a resort casino on. The tribe has already walked away from a deal in Middleborough and struck out trying to locate in Fall River, proving, if nothing else, that a nice, 300-acre plot of land blessed with good access roads isn’t exactly the easiest thing to find. Vague rumors of different locations being targeted by the tribe have been swirling for quite some time, but talk of a site in Bridgewater has been particularly persistent.

I started hearing chatter about Bridgewater a few weeks ago and then the Enterprise out of Cape Cod cited anonymous sources saying the town was emerging as a top contender. Soon after, I got in touch with Claremont Companies, the local real estate firm that owns the land in Bridgewater — over 170 acres worth — at the center of the rumors. Patrick Carney, a vice-president at Claremont, told me that he’d had “initial talks” with the tribe and that the conversation was very casual. At the time that we spoke (it was December 5), he said he hadn’t heard from the tribe in two or three weeks. I checked in with Carney again today, and he told me he still hasn’t heard from the tribe since their first talks. In other words, it’s been over a month since they’ve had any contact … and that contact was preliminary.

All of which makes today’s story in the Boston Globe, headlined, “Casino Rumors Stir Anxiety in Bridgewater,” very strange. The Globe reported:

News that the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is eyeing a 175-acre Bridgewater property as a possible casino site has stirred up a mixture of anxiety and anticipation among town councilors and residents.

The property, near the junction of Interstate 495 and Route 24, is owned by Claremont Cos., a residential and commercial developer. The state is reviewing a proposal by Claremont to use it for a development with several hundred residential units and some commercial sites under the Chapter 40B affordable-housing program.

Details of talks between Claremont and the tribe have been scant.

Well, details of the talks have been scant because the talks themselves have been scant. Like I said, according to Carney, they haven’t existed for over a month. That doesn’t mean that Bridgewater should be totally ruled out (you never know, after all), just that nothing is close to imminent there right now. Nevertheless, the Globe story went on to quote people in Bridgewater debating and hemming and hawing about whether a casino would help or hurt the town.

Why is all this notable? Because the fact that this one Bridgewater rumor keeps getting re-heated and trotted out shows how tightly the Mashpees have held their cards during their search for land. This is the one rumor that seeped out and proved to have at least something behind it, so we’ve all latched on to it. The tribe says it’s checked out several other sites, but we hear little about those. The question is, does that mean that the Mashpee are good at keeping secrets, or that the tribe has no clue yet where it’s going to put its casino? I’ve said this before, but considering the tremendous time pressure the tribe is under to pick a site, every day that goes by without them settling on one, the answer seems more and more the latter.