Martha's Vineyard

Appeals Court Hears Arguments in Aquinnah Bingo Gaming Case

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head is trying to build a bingo hall on the western end of Martha's Vineyard under the Indian Gaming Rights Act


The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head and the town of Aquinnah have presented arguments to the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals for the tribe's planned bingo hall.

The tribe is trying to build the bingo hall on the western end of Martha's Vineyard under the Indian Gaming Rights Act and argued Monday that it should not be subject to local and state zoning and building regulations, the Cape Cod Times reported.

The bingo hall is planned to be a 10,000 square-foot facility with 250 electronic gaming machines, a bar, an outdoor seating area and a mobile food vendor area.

Aquinnah, Massachusetts, and a local taxpayers group have contested the tribe's plan and contends that, per a lower court decision, the tribe must secure permits for the project. U.S. District Court Judge Dennis Saylor found in 2019 that the state and town can't impose gaming laws on the tribe, however, the tribe must comply with construction and operation regulations.

Scott David Crowell, the tribe's attorney, argued that the decision allowed the town to indirectly block the construction of the gaming facility.

"This opinion, if allowed to stand, allows the town and the Martha's Vineyard Commission to kill the tribe's gaming operation with a thousand cuts," Crowell said.

William Jay, Aquinnah's lawyer, argued that the Indian Gaming Rights Act protects the tribe's right to a gaming facility, but does not provide exemptions from local regulations not related to gaming aspects.

"If the question is whether generally applicable town ordinances, such as a zoning plan, can be used to prevent gaming specifically … the district court made very clear that it wasn't passing on any such theory," Jay said.

"That doesn't mean neutral, generally applicable laws don't apply and that is the concept that the tribe resists."

According to Jay that includes aesthetic, parking and environmental restrictions.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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