Attorney Representing Town Wants Answers From Tribe on Martha’s Vineyard Gambling Hall

Posted on: April 5, 2019, 09:12h. 

Last updated on: April 5, 2019, 09:18h.

With land already cleared for a tribal gambling hall in Aquinnah — located on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard — a lawyer representing the town is demanding answers from the Wampanoag tribe and wants them to stop any additional construction.

Clearing of land was underway in February to construct a controversial tribal gambling hall on Martha’s Vineyard. (Image: Nelson Sigelman/WCAI)

In a March 28 letter, Attorney Douglas J. Kline, who works in the Boston office of Goodwin, a global law firm with some 1,000 attorneys, says he is “troubled” over the tribe’s actions, and questions if the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head can operate a gaming venue on the property given restrictions under federal law.

Specifically we are concerned that the site is not on land on which gaming is authorized under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA),” Kline’s letter said, according to the Martha’s Vineyard Gazette.

He contends a tribe can only operate a Class II gaming venue if land was taken into trust before October 1988 — with limited exceptions, and “none of the exceptions appear applicable.”

The tribe purchased 17 acres divided among separate parcels, for $1.1 million, in 2014, and about 15 of the acres were taken into trust by the federal government in 2018.

Also, Klein points out in the correspondence the tribe does not possess a formally recognized “Indian reservation,” according to the Martha’s Vineyard Times.

Attorney Wants Tribe To Stop Construction

Kline told the tribe to stop any construction on the project and wants a response to his letter before April 4, the Gazette reported.

Klein could not be reached for any additional comments.

The tribe had planned to start construction last month, but it appears clearing of land was the extent of progress made by the tribe as of this week.

Construction of the gambling hall is expected to take six months. The contractor was identified as Williams Building Company of Hyannis, Massachusetts, which has worked on hotels, non-profits, multi-family housing and businesses in the region.

Martha’s Vineyard Tribe Says It Has All Approvals

Last year, the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) gave the Wampanoag the right to build the gaming venue after the justices in January chose not to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling.

“Despite clear direction from the SCOTUS and the First Circuit Court of Appeals, the town is once again attempting to interfere with the tribe’s economic development,” Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, chairwoman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, told

“Our tribe has worked diligently with our federal partners to ensure our site is eligible for gaming. As we have stated over and over again, we have all necessary federal approvals to move forward with the gaming facility on the current site.”

But Aquinnah Town Administrator Jeffrey Madison, who is also an attorney, responded, “The tribe has not cooperated in any manner whatsoever with requests from the town.”

Madison told that the town’s requests relate to public safety and environmental concerns. “The tribe has not provided any answers at all,” Madison claimed.

During Tuesday’s Aquinnah Board of Selectman’s meeting, Madison said he told the town’s attorney, Ronald Rappaport, to move ahead with additional legal filings in court, if they are needed, the Gazette reported. The town has also asked the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, a regional land-use planning agency, to review the project.

As envisioned, the venue will measure about 10,000 square feet and include some 250 electronic gaming machines. The facility will be a Class I and II casino under the IGRA — meaning traditional slot machines and table games won’t be permitted.

The tribe predicts the gambling venue will generate about $4.5 million annually in revenue, and it is tentatively being called the Aquinnah Cliffs Casino.

The bingo hall is located on the island’s remote western end, and residents have worried about its impact on the bucolic location.