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Mass. tribe sees legal opinion on definition of 'jurisdiction' as boost for casino hopes

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BOSTON — The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is pointing to a recent legal opinion from the U.S. Department of Interior as a major boost for its bid to have land placed into trust for a resort casino in Taunton.

The department said tribes are not required to have been federally recognized before 1934 to be eligible for a land-in-trust designation by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The legal memorandum, dated March 12, sought to clarify a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said the government was prohibited from taking land into trust for tribes that were not under "federal jurisdiction" in 1934.

Since the Mashpee did not gain federal recognition until 2007, questions have been raised about whether the Taunton land can be taken into trust for a casino.

Wampanoag chairman Cedric Cromwell said the tribe is encouraged by the decision.

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