Martha’s Vineyard Aquinnah Tribe Casino 2021 Update

NETimeGambling continues to follow the casino expansion on Martha’s Vineyard, MA. NETG reported on Martha’s Vineyard Aquinnah Tribe Casino in 2017. Now, in 2021, after a pandemic, some things have changed – some remain the same. Here’s Martha’s Vineyard Aquinnah Tribe Casino 2021 Update.

Martha's Vineyard Aquinnah Tribe Casino
Courtesy of 500Nation.com and the Wampanoag Aquinnah Tribe of Martha’s Vineyard

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) asks a U.S. District Court for a stay in last month’s ruling by Judge Dennis Saylor. In brief, Judge Saylor ruled the tribe must comply with the local zoning and permitting laws of Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC). Incidentally,  the casino project site is on tribal land. Attorneys for the tribe filed extensive documentation. Building codes required by the Federal Indian Gaming Act are equal to or exceed local requirements. Therefore, a stay is justified while the case is appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals First Circuit. The Aquinnah will resume construction of their casino if a stay is granted.

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First Announcement in 2015

Earlier in July of 2015, Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head tribal officials made an important announcement.  They reported a plan to convert an unfinished community center on the island into a gambling venue. It would be Martha’s Vineyard Aquinnah Tribe Casino. Let’s be real. This is not a world-class casino proposal. The building spreads over 6,500 square feet and is located on the Aquinnah Wampanoag reservation. They intend to build a Class II Bingo hall.  For the most part, vacationers and residents will visit this Class II casino.

Martha's Vineyard Aquinnah Tribe Casino
Wampanoag Community Center and Future Bingo Hall get a new life.

However, the tribe stopped construction of the building located on Martha’s Vineyard for two reasons. First, the tribe started construction work without acquiring the necessary building permit. Therefore, a casino venue is prohibited under certain zoning restrictions.

According to local officials, the tribe forfeited its right to offer gaming on their land. Unfortunately, in 1983, they signed a land settlement agreement that subjects them to state and local laws.

Martha's Vineyard Aquinnah Tribe Casino

Pride & Prejudice – Tribes in New England

To prevent the tribe from proceeding with its plan, Aquinnah officials had filed an injunction to the U.S. District Court. Scott D. Crowell, a lawyer for the Aquinnah Wampanoag, disagreed. He argues that authorities’ have limited jurisdiction over the tribe. He cited the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (five years after the initial land settlement agreement). It stipulates that  “the tribe has the right to run a gambling property on reservation land, and it cannot be denied that right or at least not by the town.” In other words, they cannot ban the project.

Is New England anti-Native American? Native Tribes across the country are raising the quality of life for their communities. Yet,  some New England communities seem intent on disapproving any tribal success. Opposition continues for tribal communities of northern Maine, the Shaticokes in CT, or both Wampanoag tribes in MA. There seems to be a suspicious underlying prejudice that seems looming.

Related postPride and Prejudice of New England Tribal Gaming

Martha’s Vineyard Aquinnah Tribe Casino – changes in the Wind

According to NECN, that gambling hall on Martha’s Vineyard gained a second life. New hope appeared again after a federal appeals court reversed a lower court decision blocking the long-sought project.

The decision ruled the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe exercises sufficient government powers on its lands. Thus, it is to be considered a sovereign tribal nation. This would mean that they could conduct limited gambling under federal law without seeking local approvals. Supporters within the tribe disagree. They believe that casino revenues would allow their government to offer more critical services since most of its citizens live off-island. Martha’s Vineyard Aquinnah Tribe Casino Update 2021.

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