With construction of an electronic bingo hall in Aquinnah on indefinite hold, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) has petitioned Gov. Charlie Baker to enter into formal negotiations for a full gaming license, including mobile sports betting.

In a Sept. 8 letter to the governor, tribal chairwoman Cheryl Andrews Maltais said she was making an “official request to enter into formal gaming negotiations with the commonwealth of Massachusetts,” as prescribed by the Indian Gaming Rights Act (IGRA). IGRA provides that a tribe that wants to conduct Class III gaming must first enter into a state-tribal compact.

The letter was released Monday by the Aquinnah select board, which had obtained a copy from the governor’s office.

“I think that it’s important for this letter to be shown to our community,” select board member Tom Murphy said prior to the letter’s release.

Town counsel Ronald Rappaport attended the meeting.

The Aquinnah tribe’s recent focus has been on its plan to create a Class II gaming facility on the Island, which does not require approval from the state. It was shut out of a license for full casino gambling in 2012, when former Gov. Deval Patrick gave the Wampanoag Tribe of Mashpee the chance to negotiate the sole state Class III license reserved for a recognized Native American tribe. (In a bit of irony, it was 10 years ago Monday, when Gov. Patrick signed the law allowing gambling in Massachusetts.)

After receiving a green light from the state, the plan by the Mashpee Wampanoags plan to construct a casino never got off the ground. In early 2020, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt moved to “disestablish” the tribe’s reservation and remove its land from federal trust. And last fall, the tribe’s former chairman, Cedric Cromwell, was removed from his post after being indicted for an alleged role in a bribery scheme involving a planned casino in Taunton.

In early 2019, the Vineyard tribe began clearing land near tribal headquarters in Aquinnah to construct a bingo hall, but progress was halted amid a tangled legal dispute with the town. Ultimately, a federal appeals court ruled that the tribe must obtain a town building permit before proceeding with construction, something the tribe has been unwilling to do.

Ms. Maltais’s letter to the governor makes no mention of the proposed bingo hall, nor does it mention the possibility of constructing a casino on the Island or elsewhere.

In her letter, Ms. Maltais recounts past unsuccessful efforts to negotiate gaming compacts with the state.

“First reaching agreement with Gov. William Weld in 1995 only to have it rejected by the Department for the Interior for excessive fees to be paid to the state,” she wrote. “More recently, the tribe requested Gov. Deval Patrick enter into negotiations on March 5, 2012 and renewed that request on November 12, 2013. Governor Patrick refused to negotiate with the tribe under the incorrect belief that the tribe was excluded from IGRA,” she continued.

Ms. Maltais said the tribe is seeking not only to negotiate for a Class III gaming license under the state law that originally awarded a license to the Mashpee Wampanoag, but also for the right to conduct statewide mobile sports betting, if a law now under consideration in the state legislature is enacted.

“The tribe looks forward to frank and successful negotiations to establish a regulatory framework for Class III gaming,” her letter concluded.

Aidan Pollard contributed reporting.