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Michigan Trying to Shut Down Tribal Casino

23 December 2010 by admin

bay-mills-casinoLast month, the Bay Mills Indian Community in the U.S. state of Michigan opened a new casino in Valderbilt. The small casino, which houses approximately 40 slot machines, might not be around for long. The state of Michigan and another native tribe are both trying to shut it down.

The state of Michigan only allows casinos on tribal land, since that land is sovereign territory that belongs to neither the state nor the federal government. The problem is that the casino is not on the tribal land owned by the Bay Mills tribe. The land on which the casino sits is in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula, which is a considerable distance south from the Indian reservation in the Upper Peninsula.

Little-TraverseSince the casino’s land is not on tribal territory and, by law, casinos are only allowed on tribal territory, you might expect this to be a pretty obvious violation, right? The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians agree and have filed a lawsuit. That tribe owns a casino – which is on their tribal land – approximately 40 miles from the controversial casino. It seems that the Little Traverse tribe isn’t too happy about having competition, especially if that competition is illegal. Likewise, the Michigan attorney general’s office has also filed a lawsuit in federal court, attempting to shut down the casino.

The Bay Mills Indian Community, however, says that they are within their legal rights to run a casino on that land. Jeff Parker, Tribal Chairman of the Bay Mills Indian Community, says that because the casino is on land that the tribe purchased from the government, that makes it legal to locate a casino there. In his mind, any land bought by the tribe becomes sovereign tribal land.

John Petoskey, an attorney for the Little Traverse tribe, disagrees, saying that the land shouldn’t be considered Indian land. “If it’s not on Indian lands, then it’s on state land,” he said. Because it’s state land, Petoskey reasons, anything on that land is subject to state law, including a banning of casinos.

It will take some time for this court case to play itself out. In the meantime, the Little Traverse tribe requested a temporary injunction, which would close the casino until a verdict is reached in the lawsuit. There has not yet been a decision on the request for an injunction.

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