Michigan Cannot Block Off-Reservation Casino, Says Court
Due to tribal sovereign immunity which prevents Michigan from legal challenge, a divided Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday, that the state cannot prevent the opening of an off-reservation American Indian casino.In the case, Michigan vs. Bay Mills Indian Community, 12-515, the 5-4 decision marked a win for Indian tribes.
As a result, the Bay Mills Indian Community’s casino will be opened about 90 miles south of its Upper Peninsula reservation.
Until now, Indian tribes have used casinos as a means to obtain revenue. Thanks to the immunity, the Michigan government cannot interfere in their actions. Unfortunately, this ruling leaves the door open for unauthorized tribal casinos.
In the case, Michigan argued that the Bay Mills tribe opened a casino in 2010 without the necessary permission from the U.S. government. Furthermore, the casino land was purchased with money that the tribe received from the federal government as compensation for land ceded in treaties from the 1800’s.
Since the Bay Mills casino was opened outside the reservation of the tribe, Justice Elena Kagan stated that it placed the casino outside the law’s jurisdiction and it is only subject to ordinary tribal immunity which allows off-reservation commercial activities.
Kagan did, however, suggest that a lawsuit could be brought against tribal members and individual tribal officials under criminal laws. In a statement, the Bay Mills tribe stated that funds from the casino will fund tribal education and other sovereign functions.