Despite a ruling by a federal court judge, the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, Massachusetts has no plan to give up on its plan to open a casino on Martha’s Vineyard.

The tribe however, does plan to appeal the ruling by U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV denying them the right to open and operate a gambling facility in Aquinnah, according to attorney for the tribe, Scott Crowell. The judge denied the tribe’s request to convert its vacant and unfinished community center into an electronic bingo hall. The court said that the tribe’s right to open a Class II gaming facility is negated due to its failure to show sufficient self-governance in accordance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), according to the Vineyard Gazette.

While consulting with Crowell by telephone on Wednesday evening, the tribal council, elected by the tribe’s membership, voted to appeal Judge Saylor’s decision, but said that before appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit it might first request that the court reconsider its ruling.

Judge Saylor’s 40-page November 13 ruling (pdf Indianz.com) stated, “The tribe does not have a public school. Nor does the tribe provide any public housing beyond that which is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. There is no tribal criminal code, prosecutor, or jail,” and also that, “The tribe’s judiciary, which was organized two years ago, offers only a limited judicial function. Its cases are heard by a judge who is hired on a case-by-case basis and who presides by teleconference from Washington state over proceedings that are conducted in a building off the settlement lands And, importantly, the tribe has no tax system in place on the lands to fund any future governmental services.”

Crowell said “the irony is not lost on us that he has ruled that the tribe’s programs are not sufficiently funded to exercise governmental power, yet he’s depriving the tribe of the means that hundreds of tribes around the country use.”

The judge also ruled that the IGRA, which establishes jurisdictional framework for governing Indian gaming, does not supersede the Massachusetts Settlement Act of 1987. In exchange for the tribe’s compliance with local and state laws, including gaming prohibitions, the act passed by Congress provides the tribe with 485 acres in the town of Aquinnah.

Not to be confused, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) on Martha’s Vineyard is one of two federally recognized tribes of the Wampanoag people in Massachusetts; the other being the Mashpee Wampanoag in Cape Cod. The Mashpee Wampanoag recently had a land into trust application approved, paving the way for their Project First Light Casino & Resort on the mainland in Taunton.

 

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