State files suit to block Martha’s Vineyard casino

MARTHAS VINEYARD, MA , 11/ 12 / 13: The sun setsÉnight fall comes in... Looking north towards New Bedford from the island....A casino site on Indian land on Black Rock Road near Chilmark Town Office on Martha's Vineyard. ( David L Ryan/Globe Staff Photo ) SECTION: METRO TOPIC
Land in Aquinnah on the western end of Martha’s Vineyard would host a year-round casino under a plan proposed by the Wampanoag tribe.

Governor Deval Patrick’s administration today filed suit in state court to block the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah from opening a small casino on tribal land on the western edge of Martha’s Vineyard, the island off the Massachusetts coast popular with summer vacationers.

The lawsuit, filed before a single justice of the state Supreme Judicial Court, comes three weeks after the tribe threw a curve ball into the state’s unsettled gambling industry by announcing it had received all necessary federal approvals to convert an unused tribal building into a temporary gambling hall “as soon as possible.”

State officials maintain the Aquinnah gave up their right to host tribal gambling in a land settlement deal in the 1980s.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

“We have a genuine difference of legal opinion, and that needs to be sorted out by a court, and this is how you do that,” Patrick told the Globe, in an interview in a State House elevator. “I don’t have a position on the substance [of a Vineyard casino]. I have a position on what the law provides.”

After the tribe made its announcement in mid-November, residents expressed mixed feelings about a possible casino.

In the off season, the island has a population of 15,000. In the summer, the population of the island off the state’s south coast, which is accessible by ferry and by air, swells to 115,000. The island has gained attention in recent years as Presidents Clinton and Obama have vacationed there.