Published On: Thu, Jan 11th, 2018

Casino Now a Possibility at Martha’s Vineyard

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It appears that casino gambling will soon turn into a reality at Martha’s Vineyard, thanks to the US Supreme Court deciding to not preside over the case involving the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe.

The ruling has opened up doors to the establishment of a gambling venue within Martha’s Vineyard. The state of Massachusetts, the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe and the town of Aquinnah has been involved in a heated battle for almost half a decade regarding the setting up of a tribal casino at the location.

The Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe had aimed to set up a gaming hall with 300 electronic gambling machines. However, this was not received well by the non-tribal residents in Martha’s Vineyard. They eventually got together with legislators from the state to file a suit, thereby putting a stop to the tribe’s plans.

The matter is settled. Almost.

Now, with the High Tribunal rejecting the case, the tide has turned in the tribe’s favor.

Ronald Rappaport, a town attorney, state that a sense of disappointment prevailed among those who fought against the casino. However, he mentioned that such petitions were rarely entertained, implying that it did not come as a total surprise.

According to Lawrence Hohlt, President of the Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association, the decision did not come as a shock at all, considering the fact that the court only entertains 1% of such cases. This is despite the fact that around 9000 review petitions are forwarded every year.

Hohlt mentioned that the odds were always against them.

How it all started

In 1987, around 485 acres of land belonging to the Wampanoag was put into trust by the federal government with the agreement that everything would still be subject to local and state laws. In 1988, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) was passed by Congress, allowing tribes to establish Class II gaming venues.

However, in 2015, the district court issued a statement saying that the agreement made in 1987 influenced the IGRA since the tribe did not exhibit any governmental power over the land.

The current ruling goes against the district court’s argument, citing that there were enough examples of the tribe demonstrating governmental power. For instance, the tribe had entered into a deal with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and even developed a housing program in collaboration with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

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