Wampanoag tribal officials last week chose a new investment partner to finance the $150 million casino and theme park they hope to build in New Bedford.
Carnival Hotels & Casinos (CHC International) of Coconut Grove, Fla. will front the money to develop and manage the proposed entertainment center, the tribe officials announced during a press conference in Boston late last week.
The Carnival company, well known for its cruise ship operations, currently oversees 15 shipboard and land-based casinos in the Caribbean. The agreement with the Wampanoag Tribe marks the first time Carnival has ventured into Indian gambling.
The Wampanoags’ deal with Carnival is a significant step toward reaching an agreement with Gov. William Weld. The governor had recently stated that the tribe’s lack of an investment partner hindered their chances of receiving his approval for their casino proposal.
But last Thursday afternoon, the governor’s legal counsel Brackett Denniston 3rd met with Carnival and Wampanoag officials. Shortly after that, the tribe announced their new alliance with Carnival during a press conference at Ciao Bella, a restaurant on Newbury street in Boston.
“We are happy to find a partner who shares our visions for the entertainment center,” said tribal chairman Beverly Wright. “The problem never was to find a partner, simply finding the right one.”
The tribe’s initial backer, Hospitality Franchise Systems, fell away from the partnership last month when they offered only $75 million to develop the project. The tribe’s feasibility study, conducted by consulting firm Arthur Andersen, said construction of the entertainment center will require $150 to $200 million. The preliminary plans for the Wampanoag entertainment center call for a 500-room hotel, a nine-hole golf course and three and a half cares of casino space.
For this enormous enterprise, the tribe is eying a spot in New Bedford that is now the home of a municipal golf course. While New Bedford city officials have said they welcome a Wampanoag casino in their depressed city, no final site has been announced by the tribe or the city.
In addition to the partnership with Carnival, the Wampanoag Tribe is still affiliated with Odyssey Gaming Corp. of Scottsdale, Ariz.
Odyssey, which has paid the tribe at least $300,000 for the privilege of negotiating with them, has worked with tribal officials in negotiating with the governor’s office and with Carnival Hotels & Casinos.