This week it was announced that the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) have petitioned Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to begin negotiations regarding casino gaming. The tribe would like to receive a full gaming license, with the option to offer mobile sports betting as well.
A letter was sent to the governor in early September with tribal chairwoman Cheryl Andrews Maltais making the case for the tribe to begin negotiations. The tribe would need to set up a compact with the state to offer such gaming options based on the Indian Gaming Rights Act.
Releasing the Letter to the Public
The request letter was made public this week by a select board of the tribe after a copy was obtained. Board members felt it was important for the community to see what the leaders have been working on. The tribe has tried for quite some time to negotiate a casino gaming compact with the state and has been unsuccessful thus far.
Ms. Maltais comments on the failed attempts in the letter, including how an agreement was reached back in 1995, but the Department of the Interior rejected it due to excessive fees paid to the state. The tribe requested negotiations in 2012 and again in 2013 but was shot down by Governor Deval Patrick due to the governor feeling that the tribe was excluded from the Indiana Gaming Rights Act.
The tribe wants to negotiate now for a Class III gaming license based on the state law that was used to give a license to the Mashpee Wampanoag. They also want to be able to offer mobile sports betting if laws change in the state to allow the activity.
Class II Gaming Facility Plans Fall Through
The Aquinnah has shifted gears ever so slightly in its attempt to receive Class III licensing. The attempt comes after it failed to bring a Class II gaming facility to Martha’s Vineyard. This process does not require approval from the state and the tribe was focused on this effort, only to be hindered by legal issues.
A dispute broke out with the town and a federal appeals court ruled the tribe must be given a town building permit before it can continue with construction. The tribe is not willing to do this, so the planned bingo hall never came to life.
Now the tribe seems to be focused on varying gaming options and is hopeful that the state will negotiate and allow them to get started with Class III gaming.