The Bay Mills Indian Community closed the doors to its Vanderbilt, Michigan-based casino at 11:30 a.m. today, reported GaylordHeraldTimes.com. Chief U.S. District Judge Paul L. Maloney ordered a preliminary injunction in an 18-page document forcing the casino to “cease operations” because it “is not on Indian land,” reported mlive.com.
In his ruling, Maloney deemed the Vanderbilt casino is not located on Indian lands because the land was not acquired in compliance with the Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act, states a news release by the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians.
The tribe opened the casino, its third gaming facility, on off reservation land without state or federal approvals on November 3, spurring backlash from five Indian nations in Michigan. They issued a joint statement condemning the action, and on December 22 the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians filed a federal lawsuit, asking the court to shut down the Bay Mills casino immediately. The State of Michigan filed a similar lawsuit a day earlier, charging Bay Mills with two counts of violations of the tribal-state gaming compact, which was signed Aug. 20, 1993 by former Gov. John Engler, and one count of violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act by conducting Class III gaming on property that is not “Indian lands.” The state suit asks the court to shut down the casino permanently.
Mlive.com calls the Vanderbilt casino, which currently operates 84 slot machines, a “test case” for the Bay Mills tribe. It purchased land in Port Huron and Flint Township on properties the tribe claims must be considered Indian land, and thus available for casino development.
“Yes it is, this is a happy day for us,” Odawa tribal chairman Ken Harrington told GaylordHeraldTimes.com of Maloney’s decision. The lawsuit could have lingered on for two years. “We didn’t want it to stay open while it (court case) is still pending.”
The preliminary injunction sets a precedent. “This ruling is not just a victory for Little Traverse and the State of Michigan, it is also a victory for the Indian gaming industry,” Harrington said in a news release. “It shows that the law will not tolerate those who violate the strict regulations that govern Indian gaming.”