HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveVolume 19Issue 6Preliminary Injunction Issued Halting Proposed Lansing Casino Application

On March 5, 2013, Judge Robert Jonker of the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan issued an Opinion and Order which preliminarily enjoins the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians (“Sault Tribe”) from applying to have certain parcels of property within the City of Lansing (and upon which the Sault Tribe proposes to build a casino) taken into trust by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior unless and until the Sault Tribe obtains written revenue sharing agreements with the other federally-recognized Indian Tribes in Michigan. Having the subject land taken into trust is one of the required steps that an Indian tribe must take in order to open a casino pursuant to the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (“IGRA”).

In issuing this preliminary injunction, the Court relied on Section 9 of the 1993 Tribal-State gaming compact between the Sault Tribe and the State of Michigan, which was a provision placed in all of the original compacts to control the expansion of off-reservation gambling under IRGA. This section provides that “[a]n application to take land into trust for gaming purposes…shall not be submitted to the Secretary of the Interior in the absence of a prior written agreement between the Tribe and the State’s other federally-recognized Indian Tribes that provides for each of the other Tribes to share in the revenue of the off-reservation gaming facility that is the subject of the…application.”

As it is highly unlikely that the Sault Tribe would be able to reach revenue sharing agreements with each of the other federally recognized Indian Tribes in Michigan, the preliminary injunction effectively freezes any further meaningful development of the Sault Tribe’s Lansing Casino plans until the underlying lawsuit filed by the State is decided.  In this regard, the Court noted in its opinion that the State of Michigan has established a likelihood of success on the merits of its case, and it further stated that “…the Sault Tribe’s argument that Section 9 of the Compact has no bearing on such a trust acquisition is weaker than the State’s argument to the contrary.”

In response to the Court’s ruling, Sault Tribe Chairperson Aaron Payment released the following statement:

“The Sault Tribe remains undeterred and steadfastly committed to pursuing our legal right to develop our Lansing casino. Anyone who understands tribal gaming and the trust land process also understands that this is going to be  [a] lengthy process with multiple legal steps along the way. Today’s ruling is simply the first step in the legal process. At the end of the day, we expect to prevail because our 1997 federal Land Claim Settlement Act clearly gives us the right, and because of the substantial economic benefits the project will generate for the people of Greater Lansing and the members of our Sault Tribe.”

 

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