Mich. AG sues to block planned Lansing casino

Jessica M. Karmasek Sep. 11, 2012, 11:00am


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Legal Newsline) - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has filed a lawsuit in federal court over a planned American Indian casino in downtown Lansing.

Schuette filed a 15-page complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan Friday.

The named defendants include the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians; Aaron Payment, chairman of the board of directors for the Sault tribe and a member of its Tribal Gaming Commission and Tribal Gaming Authority; Lana Causley, vice-chairwoman of the tribe's board of directors and member of the TGC and TGA; Cathy Abramson, secretary of the board of directors and member of the TGC and TGA; and Keith Massaway, treasurer and member of the TGC and TGA.

Also named are tribe directors and TGC and TGA members Dennis McKelvie, Jennifer McLeod, Debra Ann Pine, D.J. Malloy, Catherine Hollowell, Darcy Morrow, Denise Chase, Bridgett Sorenson and Joan Anderson.

In January, the tribe's board of directors approved a resolution that stated it intended to open a casino in Lansing.

Soon after, the tribe and the city executed a Comprehensive Development Agreement, or CDA, in which they agreed that the city and/or the Lansing Economic Development Commission will sell and the tribe will buy certain parcels of property in the city on which the tribe will build and operate the casino.

The CDA also stated that the tribe will seek to have title to the casino property taken into trust by the federal government for the benefit of the tribe, and that it will have five years after the tribe begins the "application process" to make this happen.

In February, the State sent a letter to the tribe warning it that the operation of Class III gaming at the planned casino would be unlawful.

"Despite this demand, on information and belief, defendants are continuing with their plans for the Sault Tribe to purchase land in the city on which to operate a casino, and to have that land taken into trust by the United States for the benefit of the tribe," Schuette's suit states.

"The State will lose the benefit of its bargain and will be injured if the Sault Tribe is allowed to pursue and obtain trust status for the casino property for the purpose of conducting Class III gaming on this property in violation of its compact and (the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act)."

The attorney general is asking the federal court to enter an order declaring that any Class III gaming conducted at the casino would be a "nuisance" and enjoining the operation of such games on the property.

Also, Schuette is requesting that the court enter an order declaring that any submission by the defendants of an application to the federal government to have the casino property taken into trust violates the tribe's compact and the IGRA, and enjoining the defendants from submitting such an application.

An attorney for the tribe told The Associated Press Tuesday that the lawsuit was expected and that the tribe plans to win the court battle.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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