Aquinnah Tribe to Break Ground on Martha’s Vineyard Gaming Hall in March

Martha’s Vineyard, Aquinnah Cliffs (Kindra Clineff/MOTT, Flickr Creative Commons)

In a rural town on Martha’s Vineyard, roughly a half-hour drive down a two-lane road, past the island’s major tourist attractions, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) will break ground on a Class I or II casino in March. The Chickasaw Nation’s hospitality enterprise Global Gaming Solutions will consult and develop the project.

The facility will cover some 10,000 square feet and offer approximately 250 electronic gaming machines —  not traditional slot machines or table games — as well as a beer and wine bar, and food trucks.

The Tribe’s casino will meet the provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1998 for Class II gaming services on Tribal Trust lands — exclusive of a compact with the State of Massachusetts and regulation by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

After an estimated six months of construction, the Tribe’s casino is slated to open on Tribal trust land at 1 Black Rock Road. The Tribe anticipates the attraction will employ about 100 people after opening.

The tranquil, western end of Martha’s Vineyard is far less populated that the eastern side of the island, and the project has generated some controversy in recent years. But Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, Chairwoman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, remains confident that the “new and exciting entertainment venue” will support the local economy and businesses in addition to bringing needed jobs to the Island.

“We remain committed to bringing positive economic development to our Tribe, the Town of Aquinnah and our neighbors in the larger Island community,” Ms. Andrews-Maltais said in a Tribal statement.

Along with Saturday’s press announcement, Ms. Andrews-Maltais released letters recently exchanged between the Tribe and Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

A February 20 letter to the Tribe by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) urges the Tribe to work with the commission to “preserve and conserve” the Vineyard. “Regardless of political boundaries we are one Island,” the letter states.

Ms. Andrews-Maltais responded: “If the MVC embraces that court decision and acknowledges that the MVC lacks jurisdiction over the gaming project,” referring to the U.S. Supreme Court declining to hear the town and state’s case against the casino in January 2018. That in effect upheld the federal appeals court decision in favor of the Tribe’s right to open a Class I or II gaming facility under IGRA.

That said, the Ms. Andrews-Maltais noted that the “Tribe is more than happy to engage in a government-to-government dialogue.”