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Court Ruling Paves Way for Martha's Vineyard Casino

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A recent ruling by a U.S. District Court judge removes another hurdle in the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head's (Aquinnah) plan to open a casino on its reservation land on Martha's Vineyard, reported

The gaming rights dispute between the State of Massachusetts and the tribe does not belong in state court, Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV determined Tuesday. Saylor also stressed that federal courts generally side with tribes in these kind of disputes, as federal Indian gaming law "pre-empts state laws regulating gaming on Indian lands."

Gov. Deval Patrick filed the suit in state court in December to bar the Aquinnah tribe from building a Class II gaming facility on its unfinished community center on the island. He charged that in a 1983 land deal, the tribe agreed to abide by state and local zonig bylaws. The Aquinnah tribe argues IGRA trumps the agreement.

"We are very pleased that Judge Saylor has recognized that the question of Aquinnah's right to game is governed by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, passed by Congress in 1988, and belongs in federal court," Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, chairman of the tribe's gaming authority, wrote.

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"The U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Indian Gaming Commission have each provided formal legal opinions in support of our rights. We now have all of the federal approvals required to proceed with gaming on our existing trust lands, and we are confident, in light of this decision, that the federal court will confirm Aquinnah's sovereign and federal statutory rights to do so.