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Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe welcomes decision in gaming dispute

Filed Under: Litigation
More on: 1st circuit, cheryl andrews-maltais, jurisdiction, massachusetts, supreme court, wampanoag

The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe has been trying to convert this unfinished community center in Aquinnah, Massachusetts, into a gaming facility. Photo courtesy Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah)

The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe is looking forward to a new dawn after winning a major gaming dispute.

On April 11, a panel of three judges on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed that the tribe can use its reservation in Massachusetts for a casino. In response, Chairwoman Cheryl Andrews-Maltais called on local and state officials to drop their long-running attempts to assert jurisdiction over her people's homeland.

"All tribal economic development is for the express purpose of providing the necessary governmental programs and services for tribal members, but those benefits expand to the community as a whole," Andrews-Maltais said in a statement. "This decision benefits us all."

But the request wasn't completely heeded. Two days later, officials in the town of Aquinnah voted to look at their options for appealing, The Cape Cod Times reported.

The town could ask a larger panel of judges on the 1st Circuit to rehear the matter. Or it could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case but an expert in tribal gaming doesn't think there's anything left to argue.

“The odds are this is final,” attorney Dennis Whittlesey told The Boston Globe.

The tribe has been trying to convert an unfinished community center in the town into a facility that offers Class II games like bingo and electronic forms of bingo. Work stopped after a federal judge said the project went against local and state laws.

The 1st Circuit reversed so the tribe is free to move forward. But Andrews-Maltais didn't said whether that would happen -- the court's ruling opens up other options on the reservation, including the possibility for more Class III games like slot machines and blackjack.

The tribe's statement in full follows:
We are simply thrilled with the First Circuit Appellate Court’s decision… The decision is exactly on point and supports the Tribe’s legal position. Hopefully this decision will help people better understand the responsibilities, rights and privileges of our Tribe.

We are so extremely grateful to our outstanding legal team of Scott Crowell of Crowell Law Office Tribal Advocacy Group, Lael Echo-Hawk of Hobbs Strauss Dean & Walker, LLP, Chris Rule of Crowell Law Office Tribal Advocacy Group, our host firm of Donoghue, Barrett and Singal, as well as Jody Cummings of Steptoe & Johnson and John Duffy when he was with Steptoe & Johnson.

As we have always asserted, the Aquinnah Wampanoag has every right to conduct gaming on our Tribal Lands just as any other Tribe in the country. This decision affirms our sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the land that has always been ours and solidifies our place in the gaming market.

We hope the Commonwealth, Town, and Taxpayers Association will respect this decision and put to rest the challenges to our inherent rights so that we can all stop expending valuable human and financial resources and begin an era of true government-to-government cooperation. All tribal economic development is for the express purpose of providing the necessary governmental programs and services for tribal members, but those benefits expand to the community as a whole. This decision benefits us all.

We are taking some time to review the decision and assess all its implications and options available for our Tribe and Tribal Community.

Chairwoman Cheryl Andrews-Maltais
Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah)

Read More on the Story:
Aquinnah board directs attorney to research appeal of gaming hall ruling (The Cape Cod Times 4/13)
A history of the casino wager (The Boston Globe 4/13)
Tribe, town react to casino court ruling (The Martha's Vineyard Times 4/12)

1st Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Massachusetts v. Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) (April 11, 2017)

Related Stories:
Aquinnah Wampanaog Tribe scores major win in sovereignty case (April 11, 2017)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe defends right to use land for gaming (December 7, 2016)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe elects new chair amid gaming fight(November 22, 2016)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe gets court date in gaming lawsuit(October 26, 2016)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe sees support for Class II gaming plan(June 6, 2016)

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