Wampanoag Tribe Confirms Plan to Build Gambling Hall after Supreme Court Decision

Representatives for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) have confirmed their intention to build a bingo hall after the US Supreme Court refused to review a case against the tribe’s plan brought by the state of Massachusetts and the town of Aquinnah.

Talking with The Vineyard Gazette, tribal chairwoman Cheryl Andrews-Maltais said that they want to build a “modest” gaming facility with Class II gaming options. In other words, the tribal gaming venue will feature bingo machines only.

It also became clear that the bingo hall will not be located at the site of a community center on the Martha’s Vineyard island, as originally planned. While a site for the property is yet to be determined, it will still be located on tribal land and on Martha’s Vineyard.

Ms. Andrews-Maltais further revealed that the tribe also nurtures a long-term goal of being able to open a full-scale casino on the mainland. However, she pointed out that they will be slow and steady in their pursuit of that end.

The US Supreme Court denied review of the legal dispute between the tribe and Massachusetts this past Monday. The state and the town of Aquinnah have been opposing the tribe’s plan for the construction of the bingo hall for several years.

Opponents of the project claimed that it violated a 1987 law that prohibited the tribe to conduct gambling activities. A lower court sided with the state and the town, issuing a ruling that banned the project from moving forward. An appeals court ruled last summer in favor of the Wampanoag Tribe, pointing out that the 1987 law was superseded by the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The case was thus brought to the Supreme Court. The decision of the nation’s highest court not to review the case means that the Court of Appeals’ ruling now stands as final, and the tribe can proceed with building its bingo hall.

The Town of Aquinnah’s Response

The Vineyard Gazette reported that Aquinnah town officials met Attorney Ronald H. Rappaport on Wednesday to discuss whether they will make more moves following the Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari. On behalf of the town and its officials, Mr. Rappaport then spoke to local media to congratulate the tribe and to reveal that they are not planning to file any lawsuits for the time being.

The attorney has been contacted by the tribe’s attorneys with a request for a dialogue, to which he and town officials have agreed. Mr. Rappaport expressed hopes that the dialogue will help all parties find common ground.

When asked if they knew where the Wampanoag Tribe is planning to build their bingo hall, town officials said that they did not have information about the preferred location of the facility yet.

The tribe previously intended to open the venue at the site of a community center it was building on Martha’s Vineyard. It completed the center last year and announced that it would keep its original purpose as community space.

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