Here is the opening brief:
Lower court materials here.
Apropos of our conference tomorrow.
The proposed $245 million casino project involves a complicated business and land deal between the city of Lansing, private developers and an indian tribe from the Upper Peninsula.
So complicated those involved were not able to reach an agreement on the various aspects of the project by an August deadline. So they gave themselves an extension until November 1st.
But with two weeks before the extended deadline there’s still no final agreement.
John Wernet is an attorney for the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. He says they are “on track to close on the purchase by November 1, though the amount of work….is a bit daunting.”
Bay Mills has a reservation located on tribal land in the Upper Peninsula’s Chippewa County on the eastern end of Lake Superior.
In 2010, the tribe used earnings from a land settlement trust to purchase 40 acres of land in Vanderbilt, a tiny town just north of Gaylord that’s located more than 100 miles south of the tribe’s main reservation.
The Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act says that land acquired with funds from a land trust “shall be held as Indian lands are held.” So Bay Mills used that language as legal authority to open a small casino in November 2010 in Vanderbilt. Continue reading
Before the Sault Tribe receives federal approval, the following questions need answers: Does MILCSA mandate that the secretary take into trust lands purchased with interest or other income from the Fund? If the land is purchased with principal from the Fund, will it be held in restricted fee by operation of law? Is the purchase of the Lansing property a consolidation or enhancement of landholdings, or other permissible use of the Fund? Finally, the Sault Tribe will have to demonstrate that they will exercise governmental authority over the Lansing casino site. Given these complex issues, the Sault Tribe’s proposal is poised to set significant precedent in the evolving field of off-reservation gaming.
Gerald Carr is a third-year student in the Indigenous Law Program at Michigan State University College of Law. He holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology, specializing in the languages and cultures of Native North America.
The article is here. There’s some good reporting in there (comments from Inter-Tribal Council, a quick survey of the issue of smoking in tribal casinos, a distinction about state law not applying on tribal land, and a discussion of the negotiations around the topic):
“If they did not allow smoking, they wouldn’t be doing any of the business they’re doing now,” said Bill Cross, a partner in the development group, Lansing Future LLC. “If you take that away, it would probably take out 30 percent of the revenue, maybe even higher. That means it would have been a deal-breaker for the city, too.
“Let’s say we’re the only Native American casino in the entire state that doesn’t have smoking: It just makes it an unfair playing field,” he said.
Speaking on the new television show “City Pulse Newsmakers” on Sunday, Mayor Virg Bernero said, “Don’t let perfect become the enemy of good,” acknowledging that while he would have liked to see a smoke-free casino, it was the tribe’s decision.
“In truth, I don’t think this is a perfect proposal. I think if we wait for perfect, we’ll wait for something that may never be,” he said. “There’s lots of things to like about this proposal.”
Bernero said he “didn’t notice a heavy smell” when visiting other casinos where smoking is permitted. “Would I prefer that there was no smoking anywhere indoors? Yeah, I would. But that’s not law in Michigan. To single out Lansing would have put us at a disadvantage.” Bernero added “that’s our view” when asked if requiring the casino to be entirely smoke-free would have been a “deal-killer.”
And here’s the letter:
Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette put their opposition of the proposed Lansing casino in writing Monday. Their letter was addressed to the chairman of the Sault Saint Marie tribe of Chippewa Indians.
For the casino to even become a reality in the first place it needs to be approved by the federal government. The tribe has to ask the U.S. Department of Interior to take the land into trust and make it tribal land, then it would be eligible for gaming.
One issue facing the proposal to build a casino in Lansing is the fact that there are already 3 off-reservation casinos in the state.
The final decision would come from the federal government, but one expert says the opposition from state leaders could make this all a bit more difficult.
“The governor role I think can potentially be huge in that politics is everything when it comes to off reservation gaming,” said Matthew Fletcher, director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at MSU.
The letter made public from the governor and attorney general to the Sault St. Marie Chippewa Indian tribe has Fletcher a bit surprised.
“That’s pretty tough…tough talk,” said Fletcher.
In the letter it flatly says they oppose the opening of the casino.
“If this was a different world and the Governor supported this, it would put pressure on the Department of Interior to act quicker. It would make the other tribes back down,” said Fletcher.
Fletcher says the Department of Interior will listen closely to what the governor has to say and his opposition could cause a great delay in moving forward.
“This is a chunk of land that is right in the heart of the state’s capital and certainly the state is going to have say in what happens when that land completely leaves the state’s jurisdiction,” said Fletcher.
He said: “My passionate support for Lansing and our casino project may have gotten the better of me, but none of my remarks were directed toward Native Americans, and nothing I said can fairly be construed as a racial slur, despite our opponent’s attempt to spin it that way. I make no apologies for using strong language against our opponents, who have made some very impertinent remarks about me, but I do offer my heartfelt and sincere apology to any and all who were offended by my choice of words.”
From the LSJ:
LANSING — Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is under fire this morning from a pair of Michigan Indian tribes and a tribal lobbyist who said the mayor made a series of racially insensitive remarks about Native Americans at a fundraiser last week.
The Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi and Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribes, who have come out in strong opposition to a proposed Indian casino in Lansing, said Bernero “repeatedly used profanity and racial slurs in describing the (casino) controversy.”