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Michigan Cannot Block Off-Reservation Casino, Says Court

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.

Michigan Cannot Block Off-Reservation Casino, Says Court

On Tuesday, a divided Supreme Court ruled that Michigan cannot block the opening of an off-reservation casino since tribal sovereign immunity bars a legal challenge by the state.

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.

OCA News Editor

Jenny McKinnley is OCA’s financial correspondent. After spending years on the trading floor in both NY and London, she offers insight from the inside out on world financial news and events.