On Thursday, July 12th, the Mashpee Wampanoag leaders signed a deal with Gov. Deval Patrick stating that they will pay the state 21.5 percent of gross gambling revenue from their Taunton casino. That same day, the Vineyard Wampanoags, announced their intent file a lawsuit against the state for failure to negotiate a compact with the tribe for existing trust lands on Martha’s Vineyard.
The Aquinnah released a statement congratulating their Mashpee cousins for reaching this threshold, but also said, “It is unfortunate that the Compact appears to wring unjust and burdensome concessions from the Mashpee that are highly unlikely to pass muster under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).”
The Aquinnah accused Governor Patrick of approaching the expansion of gaming, “Based on what he thinks he can get away with, and not what the law compels him to do. The Governor has now placed the Mashpee between a rock and a hard place as they now have to convince the Department of the Interior to approve a Compact that contravenes federal law.”
The Aquinnah are proposing to build a $167 million casino and hotel on 500 acres of land at the border of . The proposed construction was rejected in non-binding referendums in both towns, but the tribe Chairwoman Cheryl Andrews-Maltais stated that “the Governor’s very public opposition to the Aquinnah Tribe has really discouraged voters from going to the polls, significantly hampering our ability to garner public support for our gaming and entertainment destination resort in Southeastern Massachusetts.”
Andrews-Maltais and tribe lawyers have said they will take whatever actions are necessary including suing the state to block the legislation from being implemented. The tribe has also stated that they are still considering building a .
As for Patrick’s agreement with the Mashpee, the Aquinnah called into question the state's using the compact negotiation process to extract taxes on tribal gaming revenues. “In very rare cases, courts have upheld tribal casino revenue payments to states, but only when the payments are in exchange for clear value, such as geographic exclusivity, which is not the case in Massachusetts,” they said.
They went on to explain that tribal gaming is intended to enable their governments to fund the programs they need to serve their membership and steward their lands.
“Perhaps it is just as well that Governor Patrick refuses to negotiate with Aquinnah,” the statement concluded, “because Aquinnah would not, indeed it could not, agree to many of the provisions in the compact.”