Congress Shelves Casinos Bills After President Opposes Them

Trump Crushes Mashpee Wampanoag Casino

An hour after Matt Schlaap associated H.R. 312 with Elizabeth Warren, President Trump called for members of congress to vote against the casino bill.

House Democrats shelved two casino bills after U.S. President voiced his opposition to the draft legislation. The bills, HR312 and HR375, involved the casino ambitions of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts.

It is rare for a president to give an opinion for or against a congressional bill which affects a private sector venture. President Trump associates the bills with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warner, so he took to Twitter to voice opposition.

The president tweeted, “Republicans shouldn’t vote for H.R. 312, a special interest casino Bill, backed by Elizabeth (Pocahontas) Warren. It is unfair and doesn’t treat Native Americans equally!”

House Bill 312 would clear land for the First Light Casino that would be owned by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. The tribe plans the First Light Casino on the land. The Mashpee Wampanoag seek a commercial casino after years of being denied a tribal casino by the US Interior Department.

First Light Casino Taunton

To build the commercial casino, a new law would have to set aside land via an act of the US Congress. The Mashpee Wampanoag, who are best known for their role in Thanksgiving stories involving the Pilgrims, sought the White House’s favor two years ago with a special Thanksgiving video directed at Donald Trump.

The video did not win the president over, perhaps because he identified the tribe too closely with Elizabeth Warren. The Mashpee Wampanoag’s lands are entirely in Massachusetts. The tribe is part of the local fabric. For instance, the Mashpee Wampanoag depict scenes of 17th Century American life for visitors to Plymouth, Massachusetts.

H.R. 375: Native American Lands in Trust

H.R. 375 is a companion bill to H.R. 312. The second bill would allow the US Interior Department to take land in trust for Native American tribes. While HR 312 supports the Mashpee Wampanoag, HR 375 extends the same right to all other Native American tribes.

For that reason, it is hard to see how one could interpret the bills as not treating Native Americans equally.

About an hour before President Trump made his tweet, American Conservative Union president Matt Schlaap tweeted a similar post. In the tweet, Matt Schlaap said H.R. 312 would be a “reward” for Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Matt Schlaap: Lobbyist for Twin Rivers Casino

Earlier this year, the Twin Rivers Management Group hired Matt Schlaap’s lobbying firm, Cove Strategies, to lobby on “gaming issues”. Twin Rivers Casino in Rhode Island is 32 miles across the Rhode Island-Massachusetts border from Taunton. Online maps suggest it is about a 32-minute drive between Taunton and Twin Rivers Casino.

Given the proximity, Twin Rivers Casino stands to lose revenues if the Mashpee Wampanoag open the First Light Casino. Matt Schlaap built a close relationship with President Trump, whose wife Mercedes Schlapp serves as a senior White House communications aide.

Two years ago, former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke thwarted the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s ambitions. Zinke ruled against their casino plan, despite the tribe having early indications they would receive support.