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