The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) is partnering with another tribe to build a gambling facility on the Island.
In a press release issued Wednesday afternoon, the tribe said it has reached an agreement with Global Gaming Solutions, which is part of the Chickasaw nation. The deal was approved at the tribe’s general membership meeting on Sunday, the release states.
Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, the tribe’s chairwoman, could not immediately be reached for comment. She did issue a prepared statement: “We are beyond pleased that the right of the Aquinnah Wampanoag to conduct gaming on our tribal lands has been unequivocally affirmed by both the federal appeals court and Supreme Court of the United States,” she said. “Now we look forward to partnering with another tribe to bring economic development to Aquinnah and Martha’s Vineyard. The Chickasaw Nation’s success speaks for itself and we are honored to be in partnership with them.”
In January, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition to hear the case between the tribe and the state, clearing the way for the tribe to seek a Class II facility under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Under that law, a tribe is allowed to offer gambling on reservation lands in states where such gambling is permitted. The town and a taxpayer’s group were also parties to the suit against the tribe.
Things have been quiet since the nation’s highest court decided not to take the case. Larry Hohlt, who has spoken on behalf of the Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association, declined to comment. Town leaders could not be immediately reached for comment.
Martha’s Vineyard Commission chairman Jim Vercruysse, an Aquinnah resident, declined to weigh in on the tribe’s new partner. “I can’t really comment on that because it might come before us as a DRI (development of regional impact),” he said.
Elaine Driscoll, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, said she was unaware of the partnership. “I’m unaware of any contact with the commission,” she said.
Of course, the tribe doesn’t need to work with the commission on a Class II facility, which would use bingo-style slots that have the look and feel of other slot machines. They would have to enter into a tribal-state compact in order to offer Las Vegas–style gambling.
The tribe did attempt to negotiate a compact with then-Gov. Deval Patrick, but he rejected their overtures because of the land agreement the tribe reached with the state in 1987. That agreement became the subject of a protracted legal battle that ended with the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case.
Global Gaming Solutions has operated or opened more than 30 casinos and placed or managed more than 50,000 electronic games, the release states.
Global Gaming Solutions (GGS) has worked with many major casinos, racetracks, and other entertainment operations. They assumed operation of Remington Park in Oklahoma City, Okla., and have invested nearly $15 million into the racetrack and casino, according to the GGS website.
In 2012, Remington Park set an all-time annual attendance record when it surpassed 2 million visitors, according to the website. GGS also operates Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas.
Officials from Global Gaming Solutions could not be immediately reached for comment.
“Developing gaming and entertainment operations that further the economic development goals of Native American tribes is central to our business charter,” Skip Seeley, chief executive officer of Global Gaming Solutions, said in the press release. “We are excited to partner with the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe as they launch this project to support the local economy in Martha’s Vineyard and create opportunities for their tribal citizens.”
“As the People of the First Light, we are the stewards of our lands, and we’re dedicated to preserving the atmosphere and beauty of the Island,” Andrews-Maltais said, according to the release. “Any gaming facility we operate will blend in with the rest of the Island, and the Tribe will work with local businesses to create a positive economic impact for our neighbors in the larger Island community.”