The logo of the Aquinnah Cliffs Casino, the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe's forthcoming gaming facility. Image: Aquinnah Cliffs Casino

Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe starts construction on long-awaited gaming facility

After years of legal and political debates, the Aquinnah Cliffs Casino is finally a reality.

The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe began construction on the long-awaited facility, located on its reservation on the island of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. An opening is anticipated in about six months.

“We remain committed to bringing positive economic development to our tribe, the town of Aquinnah and our neighbors in the larger island community,” Chairwoman Cheryl Andrews-Maltais said in a press release. “At the start of construction, we bring to life the vision for this entertainment experience. We look forward to the creation of new jobs, supporting the local economy and local businesses and bringing a new and exciting entertainment venue to our island."

The 10,000 square-foot venue will feature only Class II games, such as bingo and electronic versions of bingo. Massachusetts has refused to negotiate a Class III gaming compact for slot machines, table games and related offerings even though are already legal in the state.

The clay cliffs in Aquinnah, Massachusetts, the home of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe. Photo: Jens Dahlin

But when it comes to Class II, the tribe is working with a strong partner: Global Gaming Solutions. The firm is owned by the Chickasaw Nation, a leader in the electronic gaming industry.

“We are thrilled to have such a wonderful development partner like Global Gaming Solutions, to help us achieve economic self-sufficiency in order to supplement our necessary programs and services,” Andrews-Maltais said. “We look forward to the day when we too can assist another Tribe who is struggling to provide for their community."

For years, the tribe asserted a right to engage on gaming on its reservation. But local and state officials claimed that the Massachusetts Indian Land Claims Settlement Act, which became law in 1987, limited the tribe's sovereignty.

The federal courts determined otherwise. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which became law a year later in 1988, affirmed the tribe's sovereign rights, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals said in a landmark decision.

Local and state opponents asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the decision but the justices refused to entertain their petition, letting the 1st Circuit precedent stand.

The tribe's headquarters are in the town of Aquinnah. The clay cliffs that inspired the gaming facility's name are nearby.

Though the reservation is located on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Wampanoag territory extends to the mainland. A significant number of tribal citizens live there.

Read More on the Story
Tribe moves ahead with casino construction (The Martha's Vineyard Times February 24, 2019)
Construction Begins on Wampanoag Bingo Hall in Aquinnah (The Vineyard Gazette February 24, 2019)

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

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