Nation | Tribe: Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah)
CASINO PROJECT IS STOPPED WHILE AWAITING COURT DECISION
The Aquinnah plan to build the Aquinnah Cliffs Casino on Martha's Vineyard. The 10,0000-square-foot casino would feature 250 electronic gaming machines that operate under Class II bingo-type rules.
Photo above shows the former community center for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head that will be transformed into the Aquinnah Cliffs Casino.
The illustration below shows the Aquinnah Cliffs Casino when it is finished.
For years the Aquinnah tribe has wanted to build a casino on their land on Martha's Vineyard. The federal government approved their application for "Class II" gambling, however the state sued to block it.
In January 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the state's case against the Aquinnah Tribe. Massachusetts had appealed in an attempt to overturn a lower court's decision in favor of the Aquinnah. That ruling said the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act supersedes the 1987 Massachusetts Settlement Act and allows Class I and Class II gambling on Aquinnah land without state approval.
a 2019 federal court case filed by the Martha Vineyard Commission ruled the Aquinnah tribe must abide by local zoning laws and acquire proper building permits. This decision was reaffirmed in a Feb 2021 appeals court decision.
The Aquinnah Cliffs Casino project is currently on hold pending the building permits. The Martha Vineyard commission does not want the casino and appears to be stalling the permits.
In March 2021 the Aquinnah Tribe appealed the Feb 2021 court decision. Construction remains on hold pending a resolution of this case.
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The 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act establishes three classes of gambling:
Class I Gaming
Defined as "traditional tribal gaming and social gaming" with minimal prizes. This class is controlled exclusively by tribal governments.
Class II Gaming
Defined as gambling played exclusively against other players and not the house. Examples are bingo, poker, keno, pull-tabs, punchboards, and other "non-banked" card games. It is governed by a tribal ordinance that must meet federal guidelines and be approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission.
Class III Gaming
Defined as gambling played against the house, sometimes referred to as Vegas-style gambling. Includes slot machines, blackjack, craps, roulette, and "all forms of gaming that are not class I gaming or class II gaming." Tribes negotiate a gaming compact with the government of the state in which it is located. The compacts insure the gambling complies with state laws.
The tribe's long-term goal has been and continues to be a Class III casino on the state's mainland.
Class II Gaming
250 electronic gaming machines
Beer and wine bar
Outdoor seating area
Mobile food vendor area
March 17, 2021
The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) has appealed last month's ruling by the U.S. First Circuit of Appeals Court that halted construction of the Aquinnah Cliffs Casino pending a review by the Martha's Vineyard Commission and approval of local building permits.
The Aquinnah say that decision was based on a technicality and are seeking a "en banc" review of the case by all the appeals court judges. The tribe is concerned that last month's decision "provides the town a clear roadmap to impede, render financially unattainable, or even fully collapse the tribe's efforts to exercise its right by imposing restrictions or conditions that render any tribal gaming project unviable."
The Aquinnah Cliffs Casino project was approved by the U.S. Department of Interior in 2014 and the casino site was transferred into federal trust giving the Aquinnah Tribe sovereignty over the land. The casino land-to-trust transfer is authorized by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. Under that act, the building codes and permits are under federal jurisdiction and not local governments.
February 28, 2021
The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) must work with the Martha's Vineyard commission and town planners in building the Aquinnah Cliffs Casino, even though the casino site is on sovereign reservation land.
The ruling upholds a 2019 federal court ruling that confirmed the tribe has a right to build a casino on their reservation, but must follow local zoning regulations and obtain proper permits.
To date there has been no public statements issued from either side regarding the decision.
July 14, 2019
The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) are asking a U.S. District Court for a stay in last month's ruling by Judge Dennis Saylor 4th that halts construction of the tribe's casino pending local permits.
Attorneys for the tribe filed extensive documentation showing the building codes required by the Federal Indian Gaming Act are equal or exceed local requirements, and therefore, justify a stay while the case is appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals First Circuit.
If a stay is granted based on the federal building codes, the Aquinnah would resume construction of their casino.
June 18, 2019
The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) want to build a casino on their reservation at 1 Black Brook Road. The location is sovereign land held in trust for the tribe by the U.S. Department of Interior.
This week a U.S. District Court ruling has temporarily stopped the Aquinnah Tribe's casino project. Judge Dennis Saylor ruled the tribe must comply with the local zoning and permitting laws of Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) even though the casino project site is on tribal land.
Judge Saylor's statement reads:
"If the Tribe seeks to construct and operate a gaming facility, it need not comply with the state and local gaming laws, but it must comply with all state and local laws and regulations of general applicability to the construction and operation of a commercial building."
This court decision effectively halts the casino project while the tribe waits for approvals from the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC). This agency cites two main concerns it intends to investigate. First, what traffic issues will be created by building the casino and what solutions will be required; and secondly, what will be the environmental impact caused by the casino on Martha's Vineyard.
These issues could take an unending amount of time if the MVC has a private agenda of preventing the casino.
The tribe has not made a public statement on this court decision, but the tribe is expected to appeal the case as their next step.
February 25, 2019
Site preparation is underway for the new Aquinnah Cliffs Casino on Martha's Vinyard. Trees and shrubs are being removed from the casino site. This preparation work is expected to be completed soon. After that the contractor, Williams Building Company, will bring in full construction crews to continue the work.
The Aquinnah Cliffs Casino will be a 9,000-10,000 sqyare-foot casino with 250 Class II gaming machines. Construction is expected to take 6 months which would complete the casino as early as October 2019.
This start of construction is an historic milestone for the Wampanoag Tribe and its pursuit of a casino. The state and town have fought the tribe for years in an attempt to block this construction. A lawsuit against the tribe went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which let stand an affirmative ruling of a federal appeals court. The ruling agreed with the tribe's right to establish a Class II casino under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988.
August 22, 2018
A new partnership has been formed for the new Martha's Vineyard casino. The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) will be teaming up with the Chickasaw nation. The Chickasaw own Global Gaming Solution. On Sunday a meeting was held for the tribe's general membership. This was when approval was given for the partnership.
Global Gaming Solutions operation Remington Park, located in Oklahoma City. Also, the Lone Star Park in Texas. The company works with casinos and racetracks. Over 50,000 electronic machines have been put into operation by the company. Global Gaming Solutions has been responsible for opening or taking over operation at over 30 casinos.
The federal appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court have given approval for the tribe to move forward with plans to develop a casino on their land. They have been approved to operate a Class II gaming facility. Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, a tribe may operate a casino on their tribal land as long as gaming is allowed in the state where the land is located.
The Class II gaming license would allow for slot machines with bingo style games to be played. If the tribe wishes to move to a Class III gaming license, then a gaming compact would need to be formed between the tribe and state.
Previously the tribe had attempted to agree on a gaming compact. However, it was rejected by Gov. Deval Patrick. The reason was related to the 1987 land agreement. That agreement was one of the bases of the legal battles that the tribe encountered in order for area residents to stop any future casino projects.
January 08, 2018
An announcement has been made by the United States Supreme Court that the petition submitted by Massachusetts and local officials will not be heard against the proposed Martha's Vineyard Class II bingo hall that the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) want to open.
The court was asked by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Gay Head Community Association, and the island town of Aquinnah and the Aquinnah to order a writ of certiorari. This would allow the lawsuit to move back to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit for reconsideration.
For many years the community center for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) has been trying to convert to a Class II casino. However the tribe has been facing a large amount of opposition from the local community. Lawsuits have been filed against the proposed project.
The courts have sided with the tribe allowing them to to place electronic bingo terminals inside the building.
In 2014 a 17 acre area was purchased by the tribe for $1.1 million. That land was then placed into trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The land was then recognized as tribal land and was given sovereign rights. This then gave legal rights for the them to operate a Class II casino.
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