Dems pull casino bills after social media criticism from Trump

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Congressman suggests White House connection to Twin River lobbyist responsible for lack of support of Taunton Land bill

TAUNTON, Mass. (WPRI) — Democratic leaders have pulled two bills concerning Native American tribes from the House floor after President Donald Trump criticized one of the bills on Twitter and urged Republicans to oppose it.

The bills were supposed to be considered Wednesday under a fast-track provision that requires a two-thirds majority to pass, making Republican support necessary.

Trump said one of the bills, which reaffirms the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation as trust land, as a “special interest casino bill” backed by Senator Elizabeth Warren. He also called it unfair and said it “doesn’t treat Native Americans equally.”

Massachusetts Congressman Bill Keating also took to Twitter pointing out the president signed a similar bill last year about a tribe in Virginia.  He then suggested a White House connection may be to blame for the lack of support, writing a “Well-documented alliance with the Rhode Island casino lobbyist.”

That lobbyist is Matt Schlapp, a supporter of the president, and chairman of the American Conservative Union that represents Twin River Management Group, which owns Twin River Casino Hotel and Tiverton Casino Hotel.

Schlapp’s wife is Mercedes Schlapp, the White House Director of Strategic Communications.  

A federal lobbying report provided to the Boston Globe confirms Matt Schlapp’s firm received $30,000 from Twin River for lobbying during the first quarter of this year.

The debate began as soon as plans to build a new casino in Taunton were announced. While Massachusetts lawmakers are in favor of the legislation, Rhode Island lawmakers are staunchly against it.

Cranston Mayor Allan Fung tweeted Tuesday night, urging lawmakers not to support the bill.

A study Eyewitness News reported on Tuesday explained how a new casino in Taunton would greatly reduce gaming revenue in Rhode Island.

“Put simply, Rhode Island decided that protection of their casino revenue is more important than the long-term existence of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe,” Congressman Bill Keating said at a House Natural Resources Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples hearing last month.

If the bill eventually passes in the House, it would still need to be approved by the Senate and signed into law by Trump before the land could be given back to the tribe.

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