Study Commissioned by Tribe Says Bingo Could Be Big Money – MV Gazette

Just how much money could a tribal gambling facility in Aquinnah hope to generate?

According to a study done for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), a class II casino — essentially, an electronic bingo facility — would net more than $4.5 million per year, a document filed in federal court this week shows.

Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, chairman of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Gaming Corp., said the projections came from a marketing study that looked at the viability of a Class II gambling facility on tribal land. Details about the projections and the firm that compiled them have not been made public at the request of the tribe, which claims the information is proprietary.

But the study projects tribal governmental net revenue of $4.54 million in the first year of operation, $4.73 million in the second year and $4.93 million in the third, Mrs. Andrews-Maltais said in the court filing. On average, the gambling operation could provide net revenue of about $395,000 per month, she said.

Information about the Aquinnah facility’s target patrons and what could they expect to find at a class II facility was not provided in the court documents. But a former University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth professor who has studied the gambling landscape in New England says the tribe probably could not expect many day-trippers, patrons visiting for the day to gamble, given the casino’s proposed location at the far western end of the Vineyard.

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Federal judge orders tribe to stop work on bingo hall - MV Times

U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV Tuesday issued a preliminary injunction that orders the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) to stop any work to turn its unfinished community center building into a gaming facility without first complying with the permit requirements of the town of Aquinnah, pending further order of the court.

Earlier this month, the tribe hired a contractor and said it planned to move forward with a plan to turn the 6,500-square-foot building, erected at taxpayer expense just off the entrance road to the tribal lands by two teams of Air Force reservists in 2004 and 2005 as a civil engineering community project, into a bingo parlor.

The tribe contends it does not need a building permit to proceed, because it meets federal gaming requirements.

On July 14, lawyer for the town of Aquinnah Ron Rappaport filed a motion for a temporary restraining order, and/or a preliminary injunction, against the tribe, the tribal council, and the Aquinnah Wampanoag Gaming Corporation in U.S. District Court.

The Office of the State Attorney General and the Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association Inc. (AGHCA) filed motions in support of the town.

The preliminary injunction was a victory for the town and followed an hourlong hearing in federal court at which all sides squared off over the issues that will be fully argued in a hearing scheduled August 12 before Judge Saylor on cross-motions for summary judgement in the overarching case that began in December 2013, when Gov. Deval Patrick went to court to block the tribe from moving forward with a gaming facility on Martha’s Vineyard.

In federal court in Boston Tuesday Mr. Rappaport argued firmly that the tribe’s actions violated Aquinnah’s permitting procedures and neglected any observance of statutory building codes in an illegal renovation of an unused, derelict community center into a gaming hall.

Mr. Rappaport said the tribe had refused a town building inspection, and that current zoning for the facility does not include use as a casino.

Mr. Rappaport said that any change in the use and operation of the building must first be approved by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

“We care and have a public responsibility to care,” he said. “The tribe has the obligation to comply with us.”

Mr. Rappaport asked Judge Saylor to uphold what he called the status quo pending a final ruling on August 12.

Judge Saylor said, “I think the tribe argues that in effect, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act [IGRA] trumps local permitting requirements.”

Mr. Rappaport said, “There’s a significant difference between pursuing the right and actually starting construction.”

Lawyer Scott Crowell, arguing on behalf of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Gaming Corporation, said the IGRA, a federal bill signed in 1988, gave the tribe the right to establish a licensed casino in town.

Mr. Crowell said that the town’s arguments that its inspection procedures protected public safety disguised its actual motives. “They’re using the building-permit issue to prevent gaming,” he said.

Mr. Crowell said the issue presently is not one of upholding a status quo that Mr. Rappaport named earlier, but of what Congress in 1988 believed was the status quo.

He also said that the tribe provides personnel to the fire department, and that historically Aquinnah has utilized grant money awarded to the tribe for the use of the municipality, including upgrades in the firehouse. He called the argument that the community center was not inspected by a qualified person “frustrating.”

Mr. Crowell said the tribe has met its responsibility to public safety, including the documented employment of a licensed, qualified state building inspector, just not one employed by the town.

“We’re looking to uphold the laws of town and the laws of the Commonwealth,” Mr. Rappaport said in counter-arguments.

Mr. Rappaport said that the town’s objection to the tribe’s efforts should not be characterized as a gaming issue.

Judge Saylor said the standards of the preliminary injunction had been met, and he believed the issue is quite narrow. He said he believed that public health and safety are independent of the gaming issue, but that the appropriate permits should be obtained for the hall in accordance with the town, thereby mandating an immediate postponement of all construction in the building.

In addition to the upcoming court hearing on August 12, a petition signed by 73 members of the tribe has set the stage for a vote by the tribal membership on Sunday, August 16, on whether to proceed with the bingo hall. Two earlier votes favored construction. In each case, mainland tribal residents turned the tide.

by Paul Rowley

Casino Stop-Work Injunction Granted in Federal Court

Oral arguments were heard yesterday (July 28, 2015) in the Federal District Court regarding the Town’s motion seeking a preliminary injunction to stop work being undertaken by the Tribe to convert its unfinished community center into a casino.  This motion was supported in court filings and in supporting oral arguments by the Commonwealth and by AGHCA.

Shortly after the oral arguments were completed, Judge Saylor granted the Town’s motion “from the bench” and issued an order that enjoins and restrains the Tribe from commencing or continuing the construction of a gaming facility at or on the Wampanoag Community Center building site without first complying with the permit requirements of the Town of Aquinnah.  The granting of the injunction is not a ruling on the underlying merits of the case.

The Tribe has 30 days to appeal the injunction to the Circuit Court of Appeals.  It usually takes 75 days to be slotted into that Court’s calendar.

In the meantime, Judge Saylor has scheduled oral arguments on August 18 to hear the cross motions for summary judgment regarding the underlying merits of the casino case.  AGHCA has submitted a memorandum in support of the Town’s motion and also will participate in the oral arguments.  It is possible that Judge Saylor will rule on the merits of the case before an appeal of the preliminary injunction is heard or determined.

Order granting Injunction_(147044036)_(1)

Federal Judge Allows Injunction, Temporarily Halting Work on Aquinnah Casino - MV Gazette

A federal judge today enjoined the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) from any construction activity on a planned gambling facility without first obtaining a building permit from the town.

After a 50-minute hearing in Boston, U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor 4th ruled that the town of Aquinnah had met its legal burden to gain the court order.

While the judge said the town had prevailed, he was also careful to say his decision should not be interpreted as an indication of how he will rule on the underlying case — whether the tribe can build a class II casino on its land in Aquinnah. That issue will be argued before the judge on August 12.

Judge Saylor did indicate that even if he eventually rules that the tribe is legally entitled to build a casino,“it’s going to have to acquire a building permit” from the town.

Tribal leaders who attended the hearing, held in the federal courthouse in Boston Tuesday afternoon, expressed disappointment in the ruling but said they were confident that ultimately their bid to build the casino will be successful.

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Tribe Clears Federal Hurdle to Serve Alcohol in Gambling Hall Planned for Aquinnah – MV Gazette

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) has taken initial steps to be able to serve alcohol at its planned gambling facility on tribal land, a move bound to stir more controversy over the project.

But one of the tribe’s lawyers said Friday there are no immediate plans to serve alcohol once the gaming hall is opened. He also acknowledged that the tribe would first need to comply with state and local liquor licensing requirements.

The Liquor Control Ordinance adopted by tribal leaders last September was published this week in the Federal Register, the government’s official journal that announces proposed or new rules and regulations. The ordinance has been approved by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, which authorized its publication in the register, said one of the tribe’s attorneys, Scott Crowell.

If enacted, the ordinance would authorize limited conditions under which liquor can be sold — in the gaming facility, for example, as well as “tribal hotels, concert venues and golf courses.”

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Tribal Liquor Ordinance Published

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head/Aquinnah has adopted an ordinance that became effective with its publication in the Federal Register on July 21st that purports both to authorize and to regulate the sale of alcohol on all tribal lands “to the extent permitted by applicable law.”  The ordinance limits sales and service of alcohol “to tribal gaming facilities, tribal hotels, concert venues and golf courses.”  According to the notice in the Federal Register the tribal council adopted this ordinance in September 2014.

Tribal Liquor Ordinance