In Massachusetts and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) has reportedly been dealt a temporary setback to its plan to open a Class II electronic bingo hall on the island of Martha’s Vineyard after a federal judge ruled that such a facility must adhere to local planning laws.
According to Wednesday reports from The Martha’s Vineyard Times and the Vineyard Gazette newspapers, the federally-recognized tribe is hoping to build its Aquinnah Cliffs venue on some 17 acres of land it purchased in 2014 but it has faced local opposition in the form of numerous legal actions.
The newspapers reported that all of this resistance came to a head early last year when the United States Supreme Court announced that it would not be hearing an appeal against an earlier decision that had reversed a lower court judgment to give the tribe permission to operate electronic bingo terminals on Martha’s Vineyard. The matter was subsequently remanded to the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts for the customary formality of a final judgment, which many thought would result in the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) being given authorization to build and open their gambling hall.
However, in a shock Wednesday decision, Judge Frank Dennis Saylor IV reportedly ruled that the tribe will now be required to obtain building and other permits from the town of Aquinnah before it can begin construction. The Vineyard Gazette purportedly detailed that this judgment came after the Massachusetts community had asked for official clarification regarding whether the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) would be subject to such regulations even though the proposed facility is due to sit on tribal land.
Reportedly read a memorandum attached to Judge Saylor’s final judgment…
“The court will, therefore, enter a final judgment providing that any gaming facility constructed and operated by the tribe on the lands at issue is not subject to state and local laws concerning gaming. The judgment will further provide, however, that any such facility is otherwise subject to state and local regulation including any applicable permitting requirements.”
Local laws apply:
The Martha’s Vineyard Times reported that the tribe had earlier successfully contended that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 had granted it an exemption from such stipulations but its legal motion had stuck simply to gaming law without mentioning planning authorizations.
Judge Saylor’s final judgment reportedly read…
“If the tribe seeks to construct and operate a gaming facility, it need not comply with 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.”
The Martha’s Vineyard Times reported that the decision marks a major victory for the small town although one of its selectman, Jim Newman, proclaimed that he expects the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) to now lodge an appeal with either Judge Saylor or the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
Newman reportedly told The Martha’s Vineyard Times…
“No, they’re going to appeal it. I don’t think it’s the end, I really don’t.”