The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe plans to convert an unfinished community center in Aquinnah, Massachusetts, into a gaming facility. Photo courtesy Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah)
Litigation | Openings and Closings
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe hails another win in gaming dispute


The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe scored another win in its fight to open a casino on its reservation in Massachusetts.

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday refused to reconsider a decision that upheld the tribe's gaming rights. Chairwoman Cheryl Andrews-Maltais is now calling on opponents to drop their lawsuit.

“Maybe now they will stop fighting us, and wasting everyone’s valuable time and resources,” Andrews-Maltais said in a statement, The Vineyard Gazette reported.

But opponents on the island of Martha's Vineyard don't plan to give up. The town of Aquinnah and a local group called Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association are going to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the tribe's victory.

Indianz.Com on SoundCloud: 1st Circuit Court of Appeals oral arguments in Commonwealth of Massachusetts v Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head December 6, 2016

“We’re filing a cert petition,” Ronald Rappaport, the counsel for the town, told The Martha's Vineyard Times.

The Supreme Court only accepts a small percentage of petitions so the town and the group face long odds. Still, the case could end up on the docket because it addresses a novel issue that affects a handful of other tribes.

At issue is whether the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act supersedes an earlier law that gives the state a jurisdictional role on the reservation. In a unanimous decision issued on April 11, the 1st Circuit concluded that IGRA effectively takes precedence.

"Pursuant to IGRA, 'the operation of gaming by Indian tribes [is] a means of promoting tribal economic development, self-sufficiency, and strong tribal governments,'" Judge Juan R. Torruella wrote in the 23-page decision.

Two other tribes, both in Texas, are dealing with similar conflicts between IGRA and earlier laws. One dispute is making its way through the federal court system so the Wampanoag case could influence the outcome.

The state of Massachusetts had joined local opponents in seeking a rehearing before the 1st Circuit. Both requests were denied on Wednesday.

The state hasn't said whether it will pursue a Supreme Court appeal.

Read More on the Story:
Full U.S. Appeals Court Declines to Hear Casino Case (The Vineyard Gazette 5/10)
Another win for tribe in battle for Aquinnah bingo hall (The Martha's Vineyard Times 5/10)
Appeals court declines to rehear Aquinnah gaming case (The Cape Cod Times 5/11)

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

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