Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe to finish community center as casino bid falters

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

The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts will complete work on a community center that was slated to be used for a Class II gaming facility.

The plan faltered when a federal judge ruled that the tribe can't engage in gaming on its reservation. The tribal council has voted to take the case to 1st Circuit Court of Appeals but in the meantime the building will be used for its original purpose, The Vineyard Gazette reported.

"We are moving forward with the completion of the community center as a community center," Chairman Tobias Vanderhoop told the paper. "That’s a great development."

Completing the community center means the tribe won't owe $1.1 million to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for not following through with a federal grant. But Vanderhoop left open the possibility that the tribe could revive the casino plan if the appeal succeeds.

In a decision last November, Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV ruled that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 does not apply to the reservation, which is located on the island of Martha's Vineyard. He concluded that the Massachusetts Indian Land Claims Settlement Act of 1987 requires the tribe to follow local and state laws that do not otherwise permit a casino.

The 40-page decision runs counter to determinations from the Interior Department and the National Indian Gaming Commission. The two agencies concluded that IGRA repealed key provisions of the settlement act but they were not parties to the lawsuit, which was filed by the state of Massachusetts.

Get the Story:
With Clock Ticking, Tribe Votes to Finish Community Center (The Vineyard Gazette 1/29)

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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