Judge orders Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe to stop work on casino

Chairman Tobias Vanderhoop of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts. Photo from UNITY / Facebook

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts of Massachusetts to stop working on a Class II facility on the reservation.

Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV granted a preliminary injunction that requires the tribe to secure a permit from the town of Aquinnah before starting any construction at the site. However, he has not ruled on the legality of the casino at this point in the litigation.

"Once everything is heard, we will prevail," Chairman Tobias Vanderhoop told The Vineyard Gazette after the hearing in Boston. The next hearing is scheduled for August 12.

The tribe intends to convert an unfinished community center into a 6,500-square-foot casino. The state and the town are fighting the project in court, arguing that the Massachusetts Indian Land Claims Settlement Act of 1987 subjects the reservation to state and local laws.

The New England Casino Race: Tribal and commercial gaming facilities in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island

The Interior Department and the National Indian Gaming Commission, on the other hand, believe the tribe can follow the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which became law a year after the settlement act. The federal agencies are not involved in the litigation.

In 2004, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the law subjects the tribe to state jurisdiction. The case, however, did not involve gaming.

The reservation is located on the island of Martha's Vineyard.

Get the Story:
Federal Judge Allows Injunction, Temporarily Halting Work on Aquinnah Casino (The Vineyard Gazette 7/28)
Judge halts plans for a casino on Martha's Vineyard, at least for now (The Boston Globe 7/29)

Federal Register Notice:
Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) Liquor Control Ordinance 14-01 (July 21, 2015)

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)

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