In an email to the Associated Press, tribal chairman Tobias Vanderhoop has confirmed that with a 110-110 vote and eight disqualifications, “there will be no change to the present course of the tribe.” The tribal governance constitution mandates a two-thirds majority for any referendum to pass, and issues can be re-posed annually.
For the local community, the controversy stems from the fact that a 1983 agreement granting the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe almost 500 acres of premium Martha Vineyards resort island land specifically prohibited gambling. More recently, the tribe argued that it was within their rights as a federally recognized tribe to carry out limited gambling activities.
When the tribe began to transfer control of a building, originally delegated as a community center, and intended on the building being used for its Class II bingo activities, town residents succeeded in halting the work with a lawsuit. A federal judge who heard arguments regarding the issues on Wednesday will rule later on the case.
Clearly a significant percentage of tribal members are also opposed to the proposed island gambling hall. Of the roughly 1,200 population, a minority of only about fifteen percent live on the Massachusetts Island, and they have concerns regarding traffic and crime. Proponents of the bingo hall suggest that the activities could bring in revenues as high as $4.5 million a year. Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, chairwoman of the tribe’s gambling corporation considers that income to be a “shared resource.”
Other tribal members opposed to the bingo hall are also opposed to a federal judge making any kind of determination, stating that the decision is not federal, but a tribal one.