Metro

Aquinnah tribe seeks role in suit

2011 casino law is being contested

The Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah told a federal judge Monday that the tribe should be permitted to intervene in a lawsuit by a private developer seeking to overturn part of the 2011 state casino law.

The tribe is trying to join a case filed last November by KG Urban Enterprises, a developer suing the state for the right to bid for a commercial casino license in New Bedford.

Lawyers for the state and for KG Urban told US District Judge Nathaniel Gorton that they probably would oppose the tribe’s motion to join the case, but wanted time to develop their arguments. ­Gorton gave the two sides until Sept. 19 to submit briefs on the tribe’s attempt to intervene.

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The Aquinnah tribe argues that it deserves to be heard in the lawsuit because the outcome of the case could affect the tribe’s ability to pursue a casino development.

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KG Urban is challenging a section of the state’s 2011 casino law that delays commercial casino develop­ment in Southeastern Massachusetts to give a federally recognized tribe the opportunity to make progress toward a tribal casino.

Native American tribes may develop casinos under a 1988 federal law, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, though there are significant legal hurdles to winning federal approval. The state gambling commission is not expected to license a competing commercial casino in Southeastern Massachusetts if a tribe is able to develop a gambling resort under federal law.

In February, Judge Gorton upheld the state casino law and dismissed KG Urban’s challenge. After the company appealed, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit vacated the dismissal and ­remanded the case to the lower court.

Governor Deval Patrick and another tribe, the Mashpee Wampanoag, have agreed on the details for a Southeastern Massachusetts tribal casino in Taunton. The Mashpee still face legal hurdles over acquiring land.

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Patrick has refused to negotiate a similar casino deal with the Aquinnah, holding to the state’s longstanding position that the Aquinnah gave up the right to host gambling in a land settlement in the 1980s, when the tribe agreed to abide by state law on its sovereign land. The Aquinnah maintain that they have the right to pursue a casino.

Mark Arsenault can be reached
at marsenault@globe.com.
Follow him on Twitter
@bostonglobemark.