Tribe, state, and town will have to wait

U.S. Supreme Court delays decision on whether to hear bingo hall case.

The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to review the case involving a gambling hall on tribe land in Aquinnah.

The U.S. Supreme Court has kicked the can down the road on a decision of whether it will hear a case involving a gambling hall for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah).

The case between the tribe and the commonwealth of Massachusetts, the town of Aquinnah, and the Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association was “distributed for conference” on Friday, but was not one of the many cases the nation’s highest court made a decision to either hear or deny, according to a listing of the court’s orders posted this morning. So both sides will have to wait to see what the Supreme Court does with this issue.

At issue is the tribe’s plans for a so-called bingo hall on its Island reservation land. The state, town, and community group contend that the tribe is bound by its 1987 settlement agreement not to offer gambling on its property. The tribe’s contention is that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 supersedes that agreement.

A Supreme Court hearing remains a long shot. The court hears only about 1 percent of the 8,000 to 9,000 cases it’s asked to review each year.

Both sides have had victories in the case. The state and town won at the lower court level, and that ruling was overturned in the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The disagreement dates back to 2013, when then-Gov. Deval Patrick filed suit in state court saying the tribe was in breach of its contract. The tribe successfully had the case moved to federal court.

Meanwhile, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs has posted legal advertisement in Friday’s Vineyard Gazette stating that it has taken an additional 15 acres into federal trust for the Aquinnah tribe.

The tribe purchased 17 acres at the end of 2014 for $1.1 million. That purchase included eight parcels, but only seven are included in the land being taken into federal trust. The federal trust process makes that land sovereign property of the tribe. The land abuts 160 acres of the tribe’s land, and is adjacent to the tribe’s community center, which has been outlined as a possible location for the gambling facility.

Tribe leaders have not responded to a request for comment on what their intentions are for the property.

The legal notice provides the public with a 30-day window to appeal the BIA decision.

The notice of appeal must be signed by the person appealing or his attorney. Appeals have to be either mailed or delivered by FedEx or UPS to Interior Board of Indian Appeals, Office of Hearings and Appeals, U.S. Department of the Interior, 801 North Quincy St., Suite 300, Arlington, VA 22203. You must send copies of your notice of appeal to 1) the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, MS-4141-MIB, 1849 C Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20240; (2) each interested party known to you; and (3) the Regional Director at the Eastern Regional Office address above. Your notice of appeal sent to the IBIA must include a statement certifying that you have sent copies to these officials and interested parties, and should identify them by names or titles and addresses.

Unless a timely appeal is filed, the decision will become final, the legal notice states.