Martha's Vineyard town orders tribe to stop construction work on high-stakes bingo hall

Associated Press

Officials in a Martha's Vineyard town are ordering an Indian tribe to halt construction work on a gambling hall.

The town of Aquinnah issued a cease and desist order to the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe late Monday.

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Town administrator Adam Wilson said Tuesday that the order was prompted in part by reports the tribe had retained a contractor and an architect and begun cleanup around the 6, 200-square-foot community center that the tribe plans to transform into a gambling hall. The center was built years ago on tribal land but never completed.

The town, in its order, also says Tobias Vanderhoop, the tribe's chairman, testified under oath on July 1 that the tribe would commence work on the gambling project Monday and would not be allowing town inspections.

The town says the tribe has also not sought new or amended building permits reflecting the revised proposal. "They're under the opinion that they don't need town approval," Wilson said. "We think that's an interesting interpretation."

The federally-recognized tribe wants to build a gambling hall offering high-stakes bingo-style electronic games.

It maintains the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act permits the tribe to open a so-called Class II gaming facility, which would not offer traditional slot machines or casino tables games, on tribal land.

But the state, the town and a local community group are currently challenging the tribe's plans in federal court.

They argue the tribe specifically forfeited the right to offer gambling when it reached a 1983 settlement with Massachusetts for the roughly 485 acres it has jurisdiction over on the famous resort island.

Vanderhoop and the tribe's gaming corporation chairwoman, Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.