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Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe responds to opponents in casino suit

Filed Under: Casino Stalker | Litigation | NIGC
More on: class ii, igra, immunity, jurisdiction, land claims, massachusetts, wampanoag

A screenshot of the Aquinnah Gaming website.

The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts filed briefs in response to a lawsuit that challenges its plan for a Class II gaming facility.

One brief says the lawsuit can't proceed without the involvement of the National Indian Gaming Commission. The agency determined that the tribe can use its land for gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

"The absent chair in the courtroom is the United States," the brief reads. "The tribe is proceeding with its Class II gaming facility because it has secured the necessary approvals from the United States to go forward under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to conduct Class II gaming on its trust land."

"This is not a case where one is speculating whether the United States asserts an interest in the subject matter of the litigation," the brief continues. "Rather, it is a case where the United States has affirmatively asserted its interest and has expressly stated that gaming on the tribe’s Indian lands is subject to the jurisdiction of the tribe and the United States, to the exclusion of the Commonwealth (and derivatively, the town)."

Another brief argues that the tribe has not waived its sovereign immunity in response to claims made by a local landowners group that was allowed to join the litigation. But the brief notes that the tribe might waive its immunity to resolve issues raised by the town of Aquinnah and the state of Massachusetts.

"The tribe is desirous of a proper judicial determination of its right to govern gaming activities on its lands," the brief states. The tribe is making "efforts to properly posture the litigation to resolve the correct issues regarding declaratory relief involving all four affected governments (the tribe, the United States, the commonwealth and the town)."

The state has argued that the tribe gave up its gaming rights under the Massachusetts Indian Land Claims Settlement Act of 1987. In 2004, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the law subjects the tribe to state jurisdiction.

The tribe, however, believes that case -- which did not involve gaming -- was "wrongly decided." The tribe also argues that IGRA "repealed" provisions in the settlement act that might have authorized state or local jurisdiction.

Get the Story:
Tribe responds to state suit against casino plan (AP 8/28)

Relevant Documents:
Solicitor Letter to Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe (August 23, 2013)
NIGC Letter to Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe (October 25, 2013)
Press Release: GSB Client Aquinnah Wampanoag to be First to Game in Massachusetts (November 12, 2013)

Related Stories:
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe seeking investors for Class II facility (8/25)

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