Selectmen want to reach out to tribe regarding casino

Board agrees to send letter now that legal battle is over.

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Aquinnah selectmen agree to send a letter to Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) about a proposed casino.

Aquinnah selectmen unanimously agreed to send a letter to the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) regarding the construction and operation of a new casino at a board meeting Wednesday.

Selectmen Jim Newman said that the sooner they send the letter reaching out to tribe leaders, the better. “We want to cooperate with the tribe and talk about this casino. Are they going to want our services?” Newman said. “What can we do to help?”

Wednesday’s discussion was the first public comment by town leaders since the Aquinnah Wampanoag announced a partnership with Global Gaming Solutions, a company affiliated with the Chickasaw nation, as a partner in the casino venture.

Tribe leaders haven’t released any further details about the proposal.

Earlier this year, the tribe’s right to open a Class II facility on reservation land was affirmed when the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal requested by the state, town, and the Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association. Then-Gov. Deval Patrick sued the tribe, claiming its plans to open a bingo hall violated a 1987 land settlement. The tribe argued that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 superseded that agreement, which set off a protracted legal battle, which ended with the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case.

The tribe can’t open a full-scale casino on the land, but under federal law it can open a Class II facility or so-called bingo slots.

The issues of waste removal and environmental impact were discussed by selectmen as well. Newman said since the casino is projected to be built on federal land, he expects the tribe will uphold federal standards of operation.

In other business, selectmen unanimously passed a motion to allow parking without a permit in parking areas that would normally require an Aquinnah resident pass, in order to accommodate the fishermen participating in the Derby. Public parking areas, with the exception of Philbin Beach and at the Aquinnah circle, will be open to fishermen.

Aquinnah Police Chief Randhi Belain said he does not think allowing nonresidents to park in resident parking for the Derby is an issue. “We have done it every year,” said Belain. “They are usually there early in the morning, and are gone before anyone notices anyway.”

Belain said although he thinks it is a nonissue, he wanted to bring the request before the board to get some additional guidance. “I just need to know, are we ticketing or not ticketing?” he said.

Along with allowing parking for fishermen, Aquinnah selectmen reviewed a letter from Volvo requesting the use of Lobsterville Beach for filming “a couple having cocktails” for their upcoming commercial. Additionally, the letter requested the large dirt parking lot at Lobsterville be used as a “base of operations” for film crews and production.

Town administrator Jeffrey Madison said they can use a section of the parking lot, but they shouldn’t need to use the whole thing. Belain said filming at Lobsterville will happen on Sept. 13 in the late afternoon, and two police detail officers have been assigned to assist.