One of Massachusetts Native American Tribes is in a row with the state over the construction of a new casino. According to a Federal Judge, the tribe needs local approval to continue working on the gaming establishment. Will this new MA casino be up and running by 2020?
This isn’t the first time that Native American Tribes and states have argued over gambling rights, and it won’t be the last. Let’s look at why a judge is setting restrictions on the tribe, and what this means for Massachusetts moving forward.
Aquinnah Wampanoag Pushing for New MA Casino
The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe has been in fighting with Massachusetts to operate a casino for years. Not long ago, the tribe pulled back from working towards a Class III gambling license. The National Indian Gambling Commission claims that this tribe is eligible to operate a casino under the 1987 Settlement Act.
In 2016, lawmakers in MA dealt a tough blow to the Wampanoag Tribe. According to District Court Judge J. Dennis Saylor IV, the tribe did not have “sufficient government control” to operate a casino within its territory. Saylor claimed the tribe lacked the infrastructure to successfully operate a major gambling venue.
The Federal government disagreed. The Wampanoag tribe has the right to open a new MA casino, yet local approval is needed before this can be done. What does this all mean?
Local Approval Needed for New MA Casino
The Wampanoag Tribe wants to continue construction on a new casino project on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. This is located on a small island just south of Cape Cod. According to the aforementioned Saylor, the tribe needs approval from the local community before construction can begin.
Saylor concedes that the tribe is not subject to state regulations. They are, however, required to abide by local permitting requirements.
Wampanoag leaders believe they have the right to begin construction without local permission. Under the laws of 1987, they argue, federally-recognized tribes can operate casinos on sovereign lands without state approval. It’s a complicated issue.
This tribe actually began construction on the casino back in February. This new legal dispute with the local regulators forced them to stop. Wampanoag Tribal leaders are expected to comment on the issue soon.
Changes to Massachusetts Casino Laws
This most recent dispute between state and tribe proves that Massachusetts’ gaming laws are not perfect. For many years, lawmakers here showed no real interest in legalizing any privately-owned casinos. In 2011, new laws were introduced to change this.
That year, the state agreed to hand out three casino licenses. Today, a number of major casino companies are operating here including MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts. Unfortunately, laws towards online gambling here are bleak.
Massachusetts has shown no real interest in regulating its internet casino market. As is the case throughout the country, laws on internet casino gambling in Massachusetts are unclear. The state does not specifically mention the legality of casino gaming through offshore sites.
A large number of individuals in this state enjoy playing casino games online. Others still prefer to play inside brick-and-mortar establishments. Fortunately, a new MA casino may be on its way, as long as the Wampanoag tribe can settle this most recent dispute with the state.