The state panel overseeing casino gambling in has agreed to accept preliminary applications from commercial casino developers in southeastern Massachusetts.

The state's year-old casino law gives preference in that region to a federally-recognized Indian tribe. But the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, which has proposed a casino in Taunton, faces several obstacles that could delay or scuttle its plan.

On Tuesday, the five-member gaming commission said it would accept initial applications from commercial developers ``as quickly as possible.'' The panel said it would not decide for several more months whether to then advance to the second application phase, giving more time for the tribe to resolve its issues.

Commission chair Steven Crosby called the solution ``imperfect'' but said it could help prevent southeastern Massachusetts from falling too far behind other regions in casino development. (Associated Press)