WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up a case against the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah)’s planned bingo hall in that island town, clearing the way for the gaming center to go forward.
In a post on its website Monday, the court included the case, brought forward by the town, state and a taxpayers group, on the list of cases it would not hear.
At the center of the case is whether an agreement between the state and tribe is superseded by the 1988 federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
The town and state have argued that the tribe waived its rights to a casino in 1983, when the state and tribe agreed to a land settlement of about 485 acres in Aquinnah. In that land deal, the tribe agreed to abide by state and local zoning laws.
The tribe contends that because it is federally recognized, it should be allowed under the regulatory act to have certain types of gambling on land it controls. It also has maintained that the federal act overrides the land agreement.
The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case leaves the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2017 ruling in favor of the tribe over the town, state and group intact.
It is rare for a case to make it before the highest court in the country, with about 1 percent of the 8,000 or so petitions it receives each term granted a hearing.
“We’re not surprised at the outcome,” said Larry Hohlt, president of the Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association. “It’s a formidable task for any case to be taken by the Supreme Court.”
James Newman, chairman of the Aquinnah Board of Selectmen, declined to comment on the court’s decision, saying he had not met with the board or town counsel. The board is scheduled to meet in executive session at 5 p.m. Wednesday and will likely talk to the public after that meeting, he said.
The tribe plans to convert its community center into a 9,000-square-foot Class II gaming facility, a category that allows electronic and traditional bingo. Town officials have previously said that Aquinnah, the smallest town on the island, does not have the infrastructure to support such a facility.
Tribe Chairwoman Cheryl Andrews-Maltais did not respond to a request for comment.