HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveVolume 19Issue 21Michigan Tribal Gaming Litigation Update

Supreme Court Sets Briefing Schedule in Vanderbilt Casino Case

On July 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court set deadlines for briefs to be filed by the State of Michigan and the Bay Mills Indian Community(“Tribe”) in the matter involving the Tribe’s Vanderbilt casino.  The State of Michigan, as the Petitioner that filed this appeal, must file its brief on the merits on or before August 20, 2013, while the Tribe’s brief is due on or before October 24, 2013. Given this briefing schedule, court observers believe that this matter will likely be argued in the fall, and decided by the end of the Court's 2013-14 term.     

This case, which could set significant precedent in the area of Indian gaming, will involve review of two specific issues: (1) whether a federal court has jurisdiction to enjoin activity that violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (“IGRA”) but takes place outside of Indian lands; and (2) whether tribal sovereign immunity bars a state from suing in federal court to enjoin a tribe from violating IGRA outside of Indian lands.

In November, 2010, the Tribe opened a casino in Vanderbilt, Michigan on land that was approximately 125 miles south of its reservation located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  The casino was closed following the entry of a preliminary injunction issued by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan in March, 2011.  The Tribe then appealed this decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed the decision of the District Court.  The State of Michigan has currently appealed the Sixth Circuit’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.


Two Additional Tribes File Amicus Briefs in Lansing Casino Case 

The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan (“Saginaw Chippewa Tribe”) and the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi (“NHBPI”) have filed amicus briefs with the U.S. 6thCircuit Court of Appeals in the matter involving the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians’ (“Sault Tribe”) plans to open a tribal casino in Lansing, Michigan.  In agreement with the position of the State of Michigan, both the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe and the NHBPI argue that the preliminary injunction issued by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan on March 5, 2013, which effectively froze any further meaningful development of the proposed Lansing casino, should be affirmed.   

In addition to the filing of these amicus briefs, the parties in the case, The Sault Tribe and the State of Michigan, have both also filed their appellate briefs, including a reply brief that was filed by the Sault Tribe on July 3, 2013.  As the briefing schedule is now complete, it appears that the Court may entertain oral argument in this matter yet this summer. 

The Sault Tribe is currently appealing the above mentioned preliminary injunction, which ruled that the Sault Tribe could not apply to have certain parcels of property in Lansing taken into trust by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior unless and until it obtained written revenue sharing agreements with the other federally-recognized Indian Tribes in Michigan pursuant to Section 9 of the Sault Tribe’s Tribal-State Gaming Compact with the State of 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.

The Sault Tribe is proposing to invest $245 Million in building and operating the 125,000 square foot Kewadin Lansing Casino, which is to be located at Michigan Avenue and Cedar Street in downtown Lansing on property adjacent to the Lansing Center.


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