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Tribal chair demands Mass. commission disclosure

BOSTON (AP) -- The chairman of an Indian tribe planning to build a casino in southeastern Massachusetts asked the state gambling commission Thursday to disclose who advised it on whether to open the region to competing projects.

Mashpee Wampanoag chairman Cedric Cromwell made his request after the Massachusetts Gaming Commission indicated last week it was ready to end the tribe's exclusive development rights in the region.

"The ability to independently evaluate the advice given to the commission is particularly important because it seems that the commission is choosing to ignore certain data that does not support its uninformed conclusion," Cromwell said.

Commission chairman Steve Crosby has already declined to identify whom he spoke with, following the same request last week an attorney for the tribe.

Crosby said he spoke with legislators and staffers involved in drafting the state's casino law so he could better understand the intent of the law.

"The one issue here is that the commission is doing everything possible to collect helpful information that will inform its decision as to how to best serve the interests of southeastern Massachusetts," Crosby said Thursday.

The state's casino law created one casino license for each of three geographic regions, and gave the Wampanoag exclusive rights in the southeast. But the law also gave the commission the right to eventually open the region to commercial bids, and would-be competitors have urged them to do so.

They say the tribe can't legally obtain the land it needs for its $500 million project in Taunton, and even if it could, it would take years, depriving the region of needed jobs and revenues.

The tribe says it's making great progress and projects a 2015 opening.

Earlier this month, commission members expressed doubts about a quick timeline and appeared ready to allow competitors.

Cromwell said the tribe would then pursue a casino strictly through the federal process, meaning the state could end up with four casinos, which could "threaten the economic model on which the entire expanded gaming act is based."

"It only seems reasonable that the tribe and the public be made fully aware of the advice on which the commission is relying to essentially ignore the legislative intent in making such an important decision," he said.