BOSTON — Aquinnah Wampanoag leaders today threatened to build a gaming facility on their Martha’s Vineyard reservation land if the Legislature legalizes casinos but the tribe does not get one of the state gambling licenses.
At a press conference in front of the Statehouse, Naomi Carney, chairman of the tribe’s gaming commission, said that building a gaming facility on Martha’s Vineyard is not the tribe’s first choice, but that the tribe has been trying to build a casino for more than a decade and would evoke it’s rights under the federal Indian Gaming Act to build if necessary.
Members of the tribe were surrounded by pro-casino forces as tribal leaders unveiled a rival plan to build a 400-room hotel and 250,000 square feet of gaming space on 230 acres in Fall River near Route 195 and Route 24 on the Fall River-Dartmouth-Westport town lines.
It’s a deal they first talked about two weeks ago, but that appeared dead in the wake of that city’s subsequent deal to sell 300 acres on Route 24 to the Mashpee Wampanoag for a casino, hotels and shopping mall. That plan would force city officials to move a planned biotechnology park slated for that property to another location.
Under the Aquinnah Wampanoag proposal, Fall River would be able to continue with plans for the biotechnology park that had been planned on the 300 acres now under agreement with the Mashpee tribe.
The Aquinnah proposal comes as the state Senate holds a hearing at today on its proposal to bring expanded gambling to Massachusetts. By 1 p.m. when the hearing began Gardner Auditorium at the Statehouse was packed. Most of the spectators word orange pro-casino T-shirts.
The Senate will begin debate on its own legislation, which is different from what was passed by the House in April. That plan calls for two resort casinos and slots at the state’s four race tracks.
But the Senate plan, though not completely ironed out, eliminates slots at the tracks and calls for three resort casinos spread out across the state, including one for a “for a qualified Native American tribe.”
According to the draft legislation, the tribe would have to enter into a contract with the state regarding the conduct of gambling on tribal lands. “The tribe would then be subject to the same conditions as any other casino license holder, including those related to revenue,” the draft legislation states.
Both the Aquinnah and Mashpee tribes are federally recognized, which gives them the authority to provide gambling on their reservations once the state legalizes Las Vegas-style gambling.
by George Brennan