A federal judge has scheduled a July 28 hearing on the town of Aquinnah’s bid for a court order to block all construction work converting a community center into a gambling facility by the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah).

The town asked U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV for a hearing “at the court’s earliest convenience” to preserve the status quo until the judge rules on the underlying issue — summary judgment motions by both sides to settle whether the tribe has the right to build and operate the casino.

An August 12 hearing is scheduled for those motions.

In documents filed Tuesday, the town said it asked for the court order after the tribe rejected a cease and desist letter to stop any work at the community center.

The tribe has no unilateral right to reject such town oversight while the judge is considering that very issue, said town counsel Ronald H. Rappaport in a memorandum supporting the town’s motion for a temporary restraining order and/or a preliminary injunction.

“Until this court declares otherwise, the status quo is that the tribe must comply with town zoning and land-use laws, and this status quo be maintained,” he said.

Mr. Rappaport said failing to halt construction “will cause irreparable injury to the town, outweighing any possible injury to the tribal defendants” if a court order is issued.

That includes the tribe’s “decision to flout specific laws intended to protect public safety” through building inspections and the permitting process, the town said. The tribe has acknowledged it has no building inspector or health agent of its own, according to town’s motion.

The tribe has blasted the town’s bid to file for the court order, calling it ill-timed, a distraction and unnecessary. At the same time the tribe said it was prepared to defend its actions in court.

The legal fight over a gambling operation in Aquinnah intensified two weeks ago when tribal chairman Tobias Vanderhoop testified in a deposition that work on the building would begin July 6, without building permits from the town. The tribe had transferred control of the building to its gaming corporation and it would be “repurposed” as a casino, he said.

Mr. Vanderhoop and Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, head of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Gaming Corporation, told the Gazette that they planned for the facility to be open for business by the end of the year, if not sooner.

Town selectman then voted to send a cease and desist letter, in part because using the building as a casino violates town zoning. The tribe has rejected the letter’s directive, claiming the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 empowers it to operate a gaming facility in the tribal building, regardless of state and local bans.

In the statement sent to news organizations Tuesday, the tribe said in fact it — not the town — would suffer the irreparable harm from a court order because “every day of delay in the project is another day of lost governmental revenue desperately needed for underfunded tribal programs for health care, housing, social services, education, police and fire protections, infrastructure, judiciary, etc., etc.”

The statement called the July 6 cease and desist letter ordering a halt to construction “spurious” and the bid for a court order a “minor distraction” from the summary judgment motions before Judge Saylor.

The tribe said the town has long known that work was proceeding on the casino building, but chose to file for a court order a month before Judge Saylor hears arguments. The statement was sent to the Gazette early Tuesday by Ms. Andrews-Maltais, who said it was composed by the tribe’s lawyers and tribe officials, including her.

The tribe said it is making improvements to the building “in compliance with applicable building codes” and it will be “properly inspected and certified to be code-compliant” before it’s open.

“There is nothing new here,” the tribe statement said. “The town has trumped up the ongoing work on the project to ‘instruct’ the tribe to stand down. Now the town is arguing that some emergency action needs to be taken to stop the tribe.”

Mr. Rappaport, Aquinnah’s counsel, declined to comment on the tribe’s statement except to say that the “town was unaware of construction activities until July 1,” the day of Mr. Vanderhoop’s deposition, which prompted town selectman to authorize the cease and desist letter. “The tribe is not complying with it, and we will be filing a motion for injunctive relief today,” the town attorney said.

Legal and political developments in the casino case have piled up during the past two weeks. Among them was news this week that tribal members who oppose the casino successfully petitioned for another vote by the tribe’s general membership to halt the gambling project in Aquinnah. That vote is scheduled for August 16.