Under regular circumstances, this would be among the biggest stories of the week:
The state gambling commission today voted 5-0 to lift the freeze on commercial casino development in Southeastern Massachusetts, and will solicit bids from gambling companies interested in competing for development rights in the region.
The freeze had been established by lawmakers to give the Mashpee Wampanoag time to make progress on a tribal casino in the region. The tribe wants to build in Taunton, and maintains it is making good progress, but faces legal obstacles that may prevent or greatly delay federal approvals the tribe needs to open a gambling business.
The Mashpee can continue to pursue a tribal casino in the region while the commission entertains bids from commercial companies.
The commission vote does not guarantee the panel will award a commercial license in the region. After the application period, sometime in late 2014, the commission will “make a determination on the applications taking into consideration everything going on in the region, including the status of the tribe,” said Stephen Crosby, chairman of the commission. If the tribe has overcome its legal obstacles — as the Mashpee have promised — the commission is not obligated to issue a license.