Sault Tribe remains confident in off-reservation gaming dispute

Artist's rendering of the proposed Kewadin Lansing Casino in Lansing, Michigan. Image from Sault Tribe

The Sault Tribe Tribe of Chippewa Indians expects a decision "any day now" in an off-reservation gaming dispute with the state of Michigan, an attorney said.

A federal judge heard arguments last month in a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Bill Schuette. He's trying to stop the tribe from building the $245 million Kewadin Lansing Casino in Lansing.

“We remain confident of our underlying legal theory and right of the tribe to pursue the project,” tribal attorney John Wernet told The Lansing State Journal.

The site was purchased in connection with the Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act. The tribe argues that the law requires the Bureau of Indian Affairs to place the land in trust.

An aerial view of the proposed Kewadin Lansing Casino in Lansing, Michigan. Image from Sault Tribe

The tribe submitted the land-into-trust application for Kewadin Lansing in June 2014. There is no timeline for a decision but a prominent supporter believes the BIA will take action soon.

“I’m getting very encouraging signs from Washington,” Mayor Virg Bernero told the paper in a text message.

Mandatory acquisitions, however, do not happen overnight In the case of the Tohono O'odham Nation, the BIA took 18 months to make a decision on an application that also was submitted in connection with a land claim settlement.

Generally, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act bars gaming on land acquired after 1988. But Section 20 of the law contains an exception for tribes with land claim settlements.

The exception has been used very rarely. In the history of IGRA, only the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma has opened a casino on land taken into trust in connection with a land claim settlement.

The Tohono O'odham Nation hopes to become the second when the West Valley Resort opens later this year. The project remains under litigation in Arizona.

The Sault Tribe could become the third pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

Get the Story:
Bernero to casino critics: ‘Don’t bet against Lansing!’ (The Lansing State Journal 8/4)

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