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AQUINNAH, Mass. - On the western tip of Martha's Vineyard, bright clay cliffs and a red brick lighthouse draw visitors as they pile out of cars and tour buses and head up to this town's scenic overlook. But the leaders of the Aquinnah Wampanoags, the federally recognized American Indian tribe whose ancestors first inhabited the island, envision a new destination. They've proposed transforming an unfinished tribal community center a few miles inland into a high-stakes bingo and poker hall filled with electronic betting machines.
Phil Marcelo/The Associated PressThe unfinished community center set on the Aquinnah Wampanoag reservation on Martha's Vineyard. The idea horrifies some long-term visitors, residents and even tribal members, who see it as incongruous with the quaint towns and soft sand beaches that have made the island off Cape Cod a preferred getaway for celebrities and other wealthy elites, including President Barack Obama and his family. "Theft, vandalism, drugs, alcohol, you name it, " said Town Selectwoman Julianne Vanderhoop, a tribal member who owns a bakery near the proposed site, ticking off the list of unwelcome "elements" she said gambling brings. "There are a lot of things that are wrong for the island, " she said. "This is certainly one of them."
At the same time, opponents acknowledge the tribe needs a sustainable cash flow. "It just seems like an unfortunate way of making an income, " Eugene Goldfield, who owns a photo gallery on the island, said as he joined family and friends at the cliff overlook late one afternoon. "But I'm really sympathetic to tribal rights. They really got screwed over the years."
Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, chairwoman of tribe's gaming corporation, said the proposal represents the best chance for the tribe to tap into the tourist dollars that flow into the island each summer.
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