- Associated Press - Friday, February 5, 2016

TAUNTON, Mass. (AP) - A group of Massachusetts residents is challenging the federal government’s decision to grant the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe reservation lands to build a casino.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in Boston federal court argues the U.S. Department of the Interior is not authorized to take lands into trust for tribes recognized after 1934 because of a 2009 Supreme Court ruling.

The Mashpee Wampanoags were federally recognized in 2007. They trace their ancestry to the Native Americans that negotiated peace with the Pilgrims nearly four centuries ago.

“The federal government has grossly overstepped its authority,” said Adam Bond, a lawyer for the 25 Taunton residents named in the suit. “The decision is completely unprecedented, twists statutory language and logic, and produces a result that defies reason.”

An Interior Department spokeswoman said the agency cannot comment on pending litigation.

The 2015 decision granted the Mashpee Wampanoags 151 acres in Taunton and 170 acres in Mashpee, a town some 50 miles away on Cape Cod.

Backed by Malaysian casino developers the Genting Group, the tribe proposes a $500 million Las Vegas-style resort on their now-sovereign land in Taunton, which is currently home to an industrial park.

Cedric Cromwell, the tribe’s council chairman, called the legal challenge a “desperate attempt” by rival casino developer Rush Street Gaming, which is partly financing the lawsuit.

“Clearly, they are using this anti-tribe group to their own advantage,” he said in a statement.

The Chicago-based casino company, through its subsidiary Mass Gaming & Entertainment, is seeking a Massachusetts gambling license to open a resort in nearby Brockton.

“Based on market research, MG&E; believes a Brockton casino would be successful with or without a tribal casino in Taunton,” the company said in a statement. “However, a Brockton casino will ultimately be more successful and the financial benefit to the Commonwealth will be greater without a tribal casino in Taunton.”

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