Obama on holiday amid Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe casino flap

The clay cliffs in Aquinnah, Massachusetts, the home of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe. Photo from Wikipedia

President Barack Obama is enjoying his vacation on the island of Martha's Vineyard as the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe defends its gaming rights from an attack by the state of Massachusetts.

The tribe plans to convert an unfinished community center into a 6,500-square-foot Class II facility. The Aquinnah Wampanoag Gaming Corporation anticipates revenues of $4.5 million in the first year, $4.7 million in the second and $4.9 million in the third.

“We as a tribe do not benefit from the tourism industry at all,” Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, the chairwoman of the corporation, told The Washington Post. “We hope to be another entertainment venue for folks to visit so we, too, can capitalize on the industry that keeps the island economy going.”

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

The state, however, contends the plan is illegal. Officials argue that the Massachusetts Indian Land Claims Settlement Act of 1987 does not allow the tribe to engage in gaming.

The Obama administration has sided with the island's first inhabitants. The Interior Department and the National Indian Gaming Commission believe the tribe can follow the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which became law a year after the settlement act.

However, neither agency is a part of the lawsuit so Obama officials won't be able to offer any support to the tribe. Arguments will heard tomorrow in a federal court in Boston, hundreds of miles from Martha's Vineyard.

Obama does not appear to have met directly with the tribe during his regular visits to the island. Wampanoag leaders, in the past, have attended the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C.

Get the Story:
On Martha’s Vineyard, tribe seeks casino to profit off summer residents (The Washington Post 8/11)

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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