The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe has been trying to convert this unfinished community center in Aquinnah, Massachusetts, into a gaming facility. Photo courtesy Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah)

Casino opponents ask Supreme Court to hear Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe case

The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to hear a gaming case involving the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe.

In April, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the tribe can follow the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The unanimous decision paved the way for a long-delayed Class II facility on the reservation.

But plans remain on hold while the town of Aquinnah, the state of Massachusetts and a group called the Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association mount an appeal. According to news reports, all three parties filed petitions on Tuesday in hopes of overturning the favorable decision.

The dispute centers on the Massachusetts Indian Land Claims Settlement Act, which became law in 1987. The state parties contend the settlement places the reservation under their jurisdiction and they don't want to see a casino on the island of Martha's Vineyard.

Indianz.Com on SoundCloud: 1st Circuit Court of Appeals oral arguments in Commonwealth of Massachusetts v Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head December 6, 2016

The 1st Circuit disagreed with that contention. A three-judge panel said IGRA, which became law in 1988, takes precedence over the settlement.

"Pursuant to IGRA, 'the operation of gaming by Indian tribes [is] a means of promoting tribal economic development, self-sufficiency, and strong tribal governments,'" Judge Juan R. Torruella wrote in the 23-page decision.

Historically, the Supreme Court has been reluctant to accept Indian gaming cases -- only two have been heard between 2001 and 2016. A third, known as Patchak v. Zinke, is on the docket for the court's upcoming October 2017 term.

Read More on the Story:
Town, State Ask U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Casino Case (The Vineyard Gazette August 8, 2017)
Town, state make case for Supreme Court intervention (The Martha's Vineyard Times August 8, 2017)
Supreme Court hearing sought in Aquinnah gaming case (The Cape Cod Times August 8, 2017)

1st Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Massachusetts v. Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) (April 11, 2017)

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