The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), through its Aquinnah Wampanoag Gaming Corporation, is actively pursuing the development of a resort casino in Southeastern Massachusetts under state and federal law.
Why did the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Aquinnah make a request for the Governor to negotiate a Compact?
Per the Massachusetts Gaming Act, Section 91, Tribes have rights as follows: (Click to view Section 91)
To review the Massachusetts Gaming Bill in its entirety, click here: http://www.malegislature.gov/Bills/187/House/H03807
Why are you pursuing a casino?
The Tribe is interested in developing economic enterprises that will support our community, bring stability to the region and create job opportunities so that Tribal Members and the people of Massachusetts can continue to pay their bills, feed, clothe and provide housing for their families; enhancing the Region’s quality of life.
As a people, we live throughout the Southeastern Massachusetts region. We have developed various small businesses on Martha’s Vineyard and we are now pursuing our rights under both state and federal laws to build a casino resort that will provide economic growth and assist in stimulating financial stability for area businesses, local municipalities, residents and the Aquinnah people. Our Tribe is very interested in creating long-term economic opportunities and growth in the region. Stimulating the economy for all citizens is paramount to our pursuit of gaming. We are committed to making a difference and having a positive impact for our families, friends, neighbors and the citizens of our surrounding communities.
Where would you build a casino?
The Tribe has secured land in Freetown, Lakeville and Fall River. We will continue to keep our options open at this time. However based upon extensive research and analysis, it has been determined that each of the parcels selected would be a viable and advantageous site for a gaming establishment. Currently, our options include the locations listed below and we are prepared to develop the property that is best suited to accommodate a project such as ours; we’ll build to suit the area and meet the demand.
- A 100 acre parcel just off Route 140 in Freetown between Exits 8 and 9, on the east side of the highway.
- A 400 acre parcel just off Route 140 in both Freetown and Lakeville, located between Exits 8 and 9, on the west side of the highway.
- A 230 acre parcel in Fall River surrounded by approximately 900 acres of City owned property, directly adjacent to the State Reservation and in close proximity to Interstate 195 and Route 24.
Each of these sites has a historic connection to the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe and has long been areas of particular traditional, cultural and spiritual significance to our People.
Where is your preferred site?
At this time, we are keeping all our options open as to the specific site where the Gaming Facility would be constructed. There are several scenarios that we are analyzing. In addition, our development partner will likely have input into the final decision. The Tribe desires to work with a municipality and county that is committed to zealously advocating to the State and Federal Government to bring this economic stimulus and thousands of jobs to our region.
Nevertheless, the Tribe intends on obtaining each parcel, placing the land into trust, and utilizing the lands for general, economic, social and cultural purposes.
Who would be your development partner for a casino?
We are in advanced negotiations with several potential U.S. based partners and will be making an announcement in April.
Didn’t the Aquinnah Tribe give up the right to conduct gaming under its Settlement Act?
No, that is a misinterpretation of the Settlement Act. The Tribe has always maintained our right as a Federally Recognized Tribe to pursue gaming and we have been actively pursuing this economic development opportunity since 1994. This right is federally codified in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, (IGRA) and is supported by Case Law. In addition, Massachusetts has acknowledged this right historically and the Tribe has even signed Compacts with two prior Governors.
Why don’t you work with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to develop a casino?
We are separate Tribes, with different governments and constituent populations. As a Federally Recognized Tribe, each Tribe is a sovereign nation with the right to game under its own authority under IGRA.
The Massachusetts Gaming Act clearly provides both Tribes with the right and opportunity to develop a gaming facility, and we are exercising our right to pursue this endeavor, and meet the requirements set forth by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in the most expeditious manner.
Why did you ask the Governor to negotiate a Compact?
Per the Massachusetts Gaming Act we are required to negotiate a Compact with the Governor if we want to exercise our option to game under the State Act. We must have a parcel of land under agreement, a referendum vote scheduled within the potential host community, ultimately it must receive an affirmative vote in favor of being a host community, and a Tribe State Compact must be negotiated by July 31, 2012. We have met the initial requirements to begin the process and have made contact with the Governor’s Office to begin Compact negotiations in accordance with the State Act. .
In addition, pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Governor is also required to negotiate in good faith with the Tribe’s request to establish a Class III Gaming Facility on our trust lands.
For additional information on IGRA: http://www.nigc.gov/Laws_Regulations/Indian_Gaming_Regulatory_Act.aspx
What is the status of the compact negotiations with the Governor?
As of March 5, 2012 we are awaiting the Governor’s response to our request to begin negotiations. On March 30,, 2012 we provided all of the pertinent information, as requested by the Governor. Therefore, we anticipate negotiations will commence in the immediate future.
What is the July 31 deadline about?
Per the new Massachusetts Gaming Act, the State may issue up to three casino licenses – one in Eastern Massachusetts, one in Western Massachusetts and one in Southeastern Massachusetts. In the Southeast Region, a Federally Recognized Indian Tribe is given the exclusive right to present a resort casino proposal for approval by the Gaming Commission no later than, July 31, 2012.
By that date, a Tribe is required to hold a referendum election in the host community, negotiate a compact with the Governor and have the compact approved by the Legislature. If that does not occur by the July 31st deadline, the Governor may allow commercial gaming developers to apply for the casino license in Southeastern Massachusetts. Although the Aquinnah Tribe is taking the necessary steps to meet the requirements proscribed by the State Law, the July 31st deadline does not extinguish the Governor’s obligations under Federal Law. If the Governor is unable to finalize a Compact with the Aquinnah Tribe by September 5, 2012, the Tribe may pursue its remedies in accordance with IGRA and secure the right to game.
Have you discussed plans with municipal officials?
Yes, we have had constructive and purposeful meetings with representatives from each of the proposed host communities and are very pleased with the reception thus far. Per those discussions, State and Municipal Officials are interested and open to further dialogue as it relates to practical development plans for the proposed sites. The Tribe has requested referendum votes in Fall River, Lakeville and Freetown. Currently, Freetown has scheduled a referendum vote for Tuesday, May 29th and in Lakeville, the vote is scheduled to take place on Saturday, June 2nd, 2012
Do you have renderings of your plans?
We are currently in the process of analyzing our prospective host communities to determine the dynamics as it relates to the lay of the land. We have several concepts, but there are many potential factors that must be taken into consideration as it relates to the development of the most efficient and effective design.
What is the budget?
There are many steps yet to be taken and decisions yet to be made. Therefore, it is a premature to definitively determine the overall budget as it relates to the entire scope of work for this project. Our overall investment will be determined by many factors. We have every intention of building to suit what the area and market can sustain without over building or over extending the Tribe financially.
How will you address the concerns of residents in the areas of interest?
We intend to schedule town meetings that will be open to the public whereby residents can learn more about the project. During these meetings, we are prepared to engage local residents and elected officials, in an effort to address concerns relative to the impact of the development. The information gathered during these meetings will be taken into consideration during the planning and development of the facility. As always, we maintain our desire to be a great neighbor and partner to the host community, as well as the surrounding cities and towns.
What is the estimated annual subsidy to the State?
This estimation cannot accurately be determined until the final host location has been selected and the scale of the facility has been finalized
How many jobs will be created?
We anticipate thousands of jobs directly related to the construction, development and operation of the facility, and the economic growth opportunities relative to local businesses. This applies to both businesses that currently exist and future businesses developed by residents as there will be an ongoing need for goods and services within the region.
What kind of jobs will be available?
There will be a wide variety of job requirements to fill, including but not limited to the following categories; administrative, finance, hospitality, purchasing, management, slot technicians, buildings and grounds, facilities, hosts, hostesses, food & beverage staff, security, table game dealers, attendants, cashiers, housekeeping, information technology, accounting, legal, customer service, human resources, transportation, engineering, landscaping and so much more. In addition, the development of the facility will create significant construction employment opportunities.
Would you have gambling addiction services?
Yes. Indian Tribes have taken the lead nationally in developing services that directly address gambling addiction. Furthermore, we are committed to training our employees with the knowledge required to recognize and approach potential problem gamblers.
Will there be a local preference for hiring?
Yes. The commitment of the Aquinnah Tribe is to provide employment opportunities and economic growth to our neighbors within the surrounding communities. Our hiring preference is focused on local residents that possess the required qualifications to facilitate the job responsibilities.
Would you build a casino on Martha’s Vineyard?
The Tribe currently holds land in trust on Martha’s Vineyard for economic development and we would consider that option. There is no legal impediment for us to open a casino on our trust land. Martha’s Vineyard is a very popular tourist destination that could certainly support a smaller-scale casino.
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