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Gambling panel opens SE Mass to casino bidders

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PALMER, Mass. (AP) -- The state gaming commission has voted to open the door for commercial developers to apply for casino licenses in southeastern Massachusetts, a region reserved until now for a federally-recognized Indian tribe.

The unanimous 5-0 vote, while a possible setback of the Mashpee Wampanaog tribe, does not preclude the tribe from continuing with its effort to build a resort casino in Taunton.

The tribe faces a number of legal and regulatory hurdles, including a federal land-in-trust designation.

The panel said it would review any commercial casino proposals, but in the end could choose not to award a commercial license if the Mashpee successfully overcomes the obstacles.

In a statement, tribal chairman Cedric Cromwell called the commission's vote "misguided" and one that could lead to four casinos in Massachusetts, rather than the thee three envisioned by the 2011 gambling law.

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