HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveVolume 19Issue 2Federal Court Hears Lansing Casino Case

On Wednesday, January 23, 2013, the Federal District Court for the Western District of Michigan heard oral arguments in the ongoing litigation surrounding a potential tribal casino in Lansing. The hearing was held regarding the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians’ (“Tribe”) motion to dismiss the case. Following the hearing, the court issued an order stating that it was taking the Tribe’s motion to dismiss, as well as a motion to dismiss filed by the State of Michigan on separate grounds, under advisement.

The Tribe, together with Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, announced plans to jointly develop a tribal casino in downtown Lansing last January. The project, tentatively named Lansing Kewadin Casino, would be located next to the Lansing Center. In May of 2012, Attorney General Bill Schutte filed a letter with the federal government, which plays an important role in regulating tribal gaming matters, expressing the state’s concerns that the new casino would violate provisions of the Tribe’s gaming compact with the state as well as aspects of federal law.

On September 7, 2012, the state filed a complaint with the Western District Court and sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the Tribe from petitioning the federal government to take the land into trust for the purpose of developing a gaming property. The state has taken the position that the Tribe would be violating its gaming compact with the State of Michigan by constructing a new casino in Lansing. Specifically, the state has argued that the tribal-state compact requires the Tribe to work out revenue sharing arrangements with other Native American tribes in the state prior to seeking federal approval for taking land into trust for gaming purposes.

The Tribe has responded in the case by claiming that the Tribe’s sovereign immunity requires that the case be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. In addition, the Tribe has claimed that the trust application the state is seeking to prevent in the litigation is not subject to the provisions of the tribal-state compact, as this particular trust application is made in accordance with the Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act, which was enacted after the compact was executed.


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