As the Aquinnah tribe presses its case in federal court to open a gambling hall on the Island, it has been granted an extension to repay $1.1 million in federal funds used to build a community center that’s targeted for the casino.

On the legal front, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) last Friday asked U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV to reconsider his recent ruling rejecting the tribe’s bid to operate a class II casino with electronic bingo in the former community center at the western tip of Martha’s Vineyard.

At the same time, the tribe was facing a deadline this month to either complete the community center for its original purpose or repay the Indian Community Development Block Grants. On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said the tribe’s mid-December deadline had been extended to Sept. 1.

According to a statement, HUD said that after its “review of the difficulties faced by the tribe, the Eastern Woodlands Office of Native American Programs intends to grant the tribe’s request to allow them extra time to complete the building for its originally intended purpose.”

The 6,500-square-foot unfinished and unused community center was built with the HUD money and the labor of three Air Force reserve squadrons.

Meanwhile, the tribe has asserted in its motion for reconsideration that new developments and evidence, as well as “several material errors” in Judge Saylor’s ruling, should prompt him to reconsider his Nov. 13 decision.

The tribe’s lawyers, headed by Scott Crowell, of Sedona, Ariz., asked for oral arguments on the motion and said they would take their case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the first circuit if the motion is unsuccessful.

In his ruling last month, Judge Saylor found that the tribe does not exert sufficient governmental power over its land to qualify under the Indian Gaming Rights Act (IGRA) for the class II gambling facility. And he said even if the tribe qualified under IGRA, that 1988 law would not invalidate gambling restrictions in the Massachusetts Settlement Act, passed by Congress the previous year.

The settlement act was the culmination of a land claims agreement approved by the tribe in 1983 and ratified as law by the state legislature and then Congress. The settlement ended a long-running lawsuit brought by the tribe against the town and gave the tribe 485 acres in Gay Head (today Aquinnah), but also required compliance with state and local laws, including prohibitions on gambling.

The tribe’s most recent motion says Judge Saylor should take special note of October decisions by the National Indian Gaming Commission to approve class II ordinances to two tribes in Texas, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, which are in a situation similar to the Aquinnah.

The state of Texas has opposed and blocked Native American gambling bids, asserting prohibitions under a federal law similar to the settlement act, according to the motion.

Through the October decisions by the NIGC to approve the gambling ordinances, “the federal government has sent a clear message that it intends for the NIGC to exclusively regulate Class II gaming, as defined under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act … on the Indian lands of the [two Texas tribes] to the exclusion of the state of Texas,” attorneys for the Vineyard tribe said in their filing. “This newly-discovered evidence and corresponding developments in law compel the tribe to file for reconsideration of [Judge Saylor’s] orders.”

The tribe’s lawyers argued that Judge Saylor did not pay proper deference to the NIGC and Department of Interior’s support for the Aquinnah casino. They also argue that Judge Saylor mistakenly failed to include the NIGC in the Aquinnah litigation, putting the tribe in an untenable position between the federal government and the state of Massachusetts.