The November dismissal by U.S. District Court Judge Dennis Saylor IV of the suit between the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and the state was strengthened on Tuesday when a permanent injunction against the tribe’s efforts for a proposed bingo hall on Martha’s Vineyard were imposed by the judge.
The motion that was filed by the town of Aquinnah’s attorneys, Attorney General Maura Healey, and the Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association Inc., was signed by Judge Saylor. While the suit had already been dismissed by Saylor, the motion contains strong stipulations that the November dismissal did not possess. At that time Saylor ruled in the state’s favor stating that the tribe had not met their burden of demonstrating that the it exercises sufficient ‘governmental power’ over the settlement lands. An appeal is expected to be filed by the tribe in the First District Court of Appeals.
The issue surrounds the Settlement Act of 1983, signed by the leaders of the tribe and ratified by the legislature of the state in 1985 and then Congress in 1987, which grants the tribe more than 400 acres of Martha’s Vineyard land as a reservation. Saylor was in agreement that the settlement act is “valid and enforceable, and that the tribe breached the settlement agreement in the course of pursuing the establishment of a gaming facility at or on the Wampanoag Community Center building site,” according to the Cape Cod Times. The tribe’s attorneys were unsuccessful in arguing that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 supersedes the agreement.
The community center was intended to be a gathering spot, however, after siting dormant for many years the tribe decided to turn it into a bingo hall. The decision wasn’t made to finish the building until Governor Deval Patrick signed an expanded gaming law in 2011 that would give three licenses for creating a casino in the state of Massachusetts. By May of 2011, the Gay Head Tribe had voted to turn the facility into a Class 2 gaming venue to get in on the gaming action. Then in 2013, the Governor blocked the tribe’s effort to provide gaming in their community center venue with the case moving on to federal court with the city of Aquinnah, the Commonwealth and the Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association joining in.
In the end, Judge Saylor stated that the lawsuit was not about advising legalized gambling or the proper option for Marth’s Vineyard land development or how to preserve the heritage of the island. The role of the court is to distinguish between the law and Saylor determined the tribe is unable to use the venue for gambling at that time, a decision which was further cemented on Tuesday.