Justices in the US Supreme Court have refused to conduct a review into the opening of a gambling hall in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts by the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah).
The petition to review an earlier Court of Appeals ruling was submitted by officials from the town of Aquinnah in Massachusetts, (where the hall is located) and a local community group.
In an interview with the Martha’s Vineyard Times, Ronald Rappaport, attorney for the town of Aquinnah said: “We’re disappointed that cert was denied, but know it’s only granted in a small number of cases.”
“I’ll be meeting with selectmen later this week to discuss options.”
Lawrence Hohlt, President of the Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association added: “Can I say I’m surprised? No. The odds were very much against us.”
Hohlt added: “I think the decision is wrong, but we have to live with it.”
Conflict between the Wampanoag tribe, the town of Aquinnah and the state of Massachusetts stems from tribal officials’ plans to turn the Martha’s Vineyard Community Center into a bingo hall. Located on the border of current tribal land, the 15-acre site was initially purchased by the tribe at the end of 2014 and was joined to its existing 480 acres already under trust with the Federal government in December.
A key part of the dispute concerns whether the legal authority of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (1988) should supersede the authority of the Massachusetts Settlement Act (1987), allowing the tribe to operate Class II gaming under exemptions to local and state regulations.
In 2015, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head lost its first legal skirmish with opposition when US District Judge F Dennis Saylor effectively found that the tribe does not exert “sufficient governmental power” over its own land to qualify for such an operation under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. However, the tribe lodged an appeal with the US Court of Appeals, which they later won.
Following this victory, opposers of the tribe filed their petition to have the decision reviewed by the Supreme Court, but with over 9,000 cases regularly submitted for review every year the Supreme Court can only review about 1% of the cases.
Representatives from the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head and the State of Massachusetts have made no comment on the decision not to review.