indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Kill The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Michigan tribe wins gaming rights case
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Filed Under: Law | National

A Michigan tribe whose casino was threatened by a bureaucratic blunder won its case against the federal government on Friday.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians spent $41 million on the Kewadin Shores Casino in order to replace an aging facility with health and safety problems. But the National Indian Gaming Commission said the site in the city of St. Ignace did not qualify for gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Facing economic uncertainty, the tribe took the government to court and won a preliminary injunction that allowed the casino to open for the busy Labor Day weekend in 2007. A year later, a federal judge rewarded the tribe with a final decision that upholds the legality of the site.

In the 37-page ruling, Judge R. Allan Edgar said the government "dropped the ball" by failing to resolve a bureaucratic blunder dating to 1986 that would have prevented the litigation altogether. He said the casino site qualifies for gaming because it is "contiguous" to an existing reservation, as allowed by IGRA.

"Defendants appear to ignore any case law that discusses the meaning of reservation in any context and instead rely on their own inability to make a decision on a timely request for a proclamation as evidence of the lack of merit of the request," Edgar wrote.

IGRA generally bars gaming on land taken into trust after 1988 unless certain exceptions are met. The Kewadin Shores site was acquired in 2000, well past the IGRA deadline.

The tribe argued that the site qualifies because it is contiguous to land that was placed in trust 1983, long before the passage of IGRA. The tribe even asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs for a proclamation to declare the 1983 parcel a reservation in 1986, two years before IGRA became law.

Despite the history, the NIGC issued a series of opinions that said the 1983 site was not a reservation. Attorneys from the Interior Department weighed in and said the only way for the 1983 site to be considered a reservation was for the BIA to formally declare it to be one.

The government's stance meant the 2000 parcel could not be used for gaming without going through an additional, lengthy review process that only three tribes have completed in the history of IGRA.

But Edgar said the BIA's inaction shouldn't be held against the tribe. He said ambiguities in the definition of "reservation" tipped the case in the tribe's favor.

Edgar noted that the BIA's recent IGRA regulations appear to bring some certainty to the issue. The Section 20 rules, however, were finalized long after the tribe applied for its reservation proclamation, he said.

As a result, "this court must review the defendants' actions at the time of the decision, not in hindsight," Edgar wrote.

A similar case involving the Fort Sill Apache Tribe of Oklahoma is pending in federal court. The tribe asked the BIA for a reservation proclamation for land held in trust in New Mexico.

The BIA failed to act on the proclamation even as the tribe moved forward with plans for a gaming facility. A judge has so far declined to force the BIA to make a decision.

Court Decisions:
Final Judgement (August 29, 2008) | Preliminary Injunction (August 28, 2007)

Court Documents:
Magistrate's Report (July 23, 2007) | Government's Objections (August 6, 2007)

DOI Documents:
NIGC Opinion (February 14, 2006) | David Bernhardt Letter (July 26, 2006) | NIGC Opinion (July 31, 2006) | NIGC Final Decision (September 1, 2006) | Carl Artman Letter (December 8, 2006) George Skibine Testimony (June 13, 2007)

Related Stories:
Judge won't force BIA to act on Fort Sill Apache site (8/8)
NIGC cites 'broken promises' in ruling against casino (5/22)
Artman issues gaming rules as he leaves BIA ofice (5/20)
Michigan tribe set to open casino after court victory (8/29)
Gaming rules behind schedule, BIA head confirms (8/13)
Judge hits BIA on Chickasaw Nation gaming site (7/19)
Judge orders Indian land determination on casino (7/18)
House panel takes up land-into-trust, recognition bills (6/14)
BIA continues work on gaming land regulation (12/04)
Another GAO report looks at land-into-trust (10/25)
GAO finds lengthy delays on land-into-trust (8/28)
Legislation won't address all land-into-trust issues (04/05)
Off-reservation casino sites still in question (3/16)
BIA sets timetable for new gaming regulations (03/01)
Senate panel presses BIA on gaming regulations (02/02)
BIA takes stab at land-into-trust for gaming rules (2/1)



Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Pine Ridge's David Michaud wins fighting match (12/19)
Mark Trahant: Old school budgets a better deal for Indian Country (12/19)
Ruth Hopkins: Boycott a repeat offender of cultural appropriation (12/19)
8th Circuit sides with Omaha Tribe in reservation boundary case (12/19)
BIA finalizes rule to add Alaska tribes to land-into-trust process (12/19)
Obama signs measure to extend VAWA tribal provision to Alaska (12/19)
Wyandotte Nation set to break ground on $1.4M cultural center (12/19)
Man from Standing Rock Sioux Tribe charged for cousin's murder (12/19)
Opponents of Cowlitz Tribe plan appeal of gaming land decision (12/19)
Menominee Nation off-reservation casino supporters hold rally (12/19)
Bear River Band hires tribal member as casino general manager (12/19)
Column: Poarch Creek gaming is only thing working in Alabama (12/19)
Column: Wait for decision on Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe casino (12/19)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux Tribe inaugurates new leadership (12/18)
Walt Lamar: Cooperation helps address crime in Indian Country (12/18)
Brandon Ecoffey: Tournament shows hope of the Lakota people (12/18)
Editorial: Showing caution for marijuana sales in Indian Country (12/18)
Editorial: New York governor makes right call to outlaw fracking (12/18)
Fines for foes of Tohono O'odham Nation off-reservation casino (12/18)
New York passes over tribes for first commercial casino licenses (12/18)
Factions of Cayuga Nation in court over Class II gaming facility (12/18)
Deadline extended for commercial casino eyed by Quapaw Tribe (12/18)
Opinion: Another casino isn't answer to Connecticut's problems (12/18)
Native Sun News: Youth take on lead role in Dakota memorial ride (12/17)
Mark Trahant: NCAI launches new campaign against racist mascot (12/17)
Norm DeWeaver: Job market is a disaster zone in Indian Country (12/17)
Amanda Blackhorse: Fake chiefs and fake headdresses must go (12/17)
DOI makes $9M in buy-back offers on Coeur d'Alene Reservation (12/17)
Shoshone-Bannock Tribes see success with two bills in Congress (12/17)
Boyd Cothran: Torture justified by treatment of Indian prisoners (12/17)
Rep. Gosar faces criticism over bill that benefits Hualapai Tribe (12/17)
Navajo Nation's highest court dismisses challenge to candidate (12/17)
Column: Tribal voices often minimized in environmental debate (12/17)
Column: Chief Cliff still an undeniably spiritual place in Montana (12/17)
Native activists in Brazil protest land bill with bows and arrows (12/17)
Shakopee Tribe funds Eastern Shoshone Tribe casino expansion (12/17)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.