Michigan Won’t Take Casino Plans Lying Down

     (CN) – The Sault Chippewa Indians are improperly planning to open a casino off the reservation without sharing revenue with other tribes, Michigan says in federal court.
     Michigan says it entered into a gaming compact with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians in 1993. A gaming ordinance that the tribe adopted permits only the operation of casinos owned by the Sault Tribe itself, according to the complaint.
     “The sole purpose of section 9 of the Sault Tribe compact was to benefit the state primarily by limiting the expansion of casino gaming in the state by prohibiting the tribe from even applying to have land taken into trust for off-reservation gaming unless the stated conditions were met,” according to the 15-page complaint.
     Michigan says that the Sault Tribe’s reservation lies entirely in the Upper Peninsula, but that its board of directors approved a resolution in January 2012 to open two casinos more than 200 miles away in the city of Lansing in the Lower Peninsula.
     While the Sault Tribe has yet to purchase any casino property, it mutually agreed with Lansing that the purchase will occur by the end of October, the suit states.
     Michigan says it sent the Sault Tribe a letter in February, warning it that operating a casino in Lansing would be unlawful.
     Despite these objections, however, the Sault Tribe still allegedly plans to buy the land in Lansing and let the United States take it into trust for the benefit of the tribe.
     “Given the contractual requirement … to purchase the casino property, or a part of it by the end of 2012, plaintiff believes that the tribe will submit an application to have the purchased land taken into trust in the very near future,” the complaint states.
     Michigan further alleges that “the Sault Tribe has not entered into a written agreement with the state’s other federally recognized Indian tribes that provides for each of the other tribes to share in the revenue that would be generated by a casino operated off its reservation by the Sault Tribe in the city of Lansing.”
     “Without such a revenue sharing agreement, any application submitted by the Sault Tribe to take land into trust would be a violation of section 9 of the Sault Tribe compact, which would in turn be a violation of IGRA,” the complaint states, abbreviating the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
     Several times in the complaint, Michigan notes that the Sault Tribe’s successful acquisition of casino property will hurt the state, “in violation of its compact and IGRA.”
     “Any operation of a casino by defendants on the casino property would be proscribed by law,” Michigan says. “Any continued operation of a casino by defendants would therefore be a public nuisance. … Any continued operation of a casino by defendants on the casino property would harm the public interest and the balance of harm caused by such operation weighs heavily in favor of the state.”
     Michigan wants the court to forbid the operation of any gaming conducted at a Lansing casino by the Sault Tribe and declare such games as a nuisance to the public.
     The state is represented by Attorney General Bill Schuette.

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