A dispute over a casino opened in November by the Bay Mills Indian Community is getting more heated. In a statement today, the chair of the Upper Peninsula tribe lashed out the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.
This week there were two lawsuits filed against the tribe in federal court. One is from the Little Traverse Bay Bands in Harbor Springs, the other from the state Attorney General.
Both sued to close Bay Mills' small casino in Vanderbilt.
In a statement today, the chair of Bay Mills, Jeff Parker, calls the Odawa tribe hypocritical, saying its lawsuit is more about protecting the tribe's market share for its own gaming operations than it is about Indian law.
The Little Traverse Bay Bands, and several other gaming nations, claim Bay Mills' move to open the casino in Vanderbilt last month is a threat to Indian gaming. The casino opened without getting the normal state and federal approvals.
Bay Mills claims the casino is legal.
By filing suit against Bay Mills Indian Community on Dec. 22 the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians is resorting to the same political tactics used by convicted felon and lobbyist 'Casino' Jack Abramoff and lobbyist 'Leisure Suit' Larry Rosenthal in an attempt to shut down Bay Mills' Vanderbilt gaming facility. In this latest effort, LTBB has teamed up with the Saginaw Chippewa, Gun Lake, and the Huron Nottawaseppi tribes to influence Washington D.C. opinions, the same tribes that have a history of working with the aforementioned pair.
Nowhere is the success of these tribes' influence more evident than the recently released opinion of the Solicitor's Office of the U.S. Department of Interior, wherein the Solicitor plainly acknowledges its communication with and consideration of the legal position of these four tribes. In contrast, Bay Mills was not consulted or provided a chance to respond.
For those working against Bay Mills, the matter appears to be grounded heavily in the DOI opinion, the same opinion they influenced, and LTBB's lawsuit is more about protecting market share than recognizing Indian law. That is ironic considering LTBB's efforts to expand its own gaming operations.
"This is the same tribe that worked out a closed door deal with the State of Michigan to locate a casino in Mackinaw City, which will have a devastating impact on tribes located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula," said Bay Mills Tribal President, Jeff Parker. "Bringing suit against us, claiming that we would unfairly impact their gaming market, is a little like the pot calling the kettle black. This is the same cut throat opposition we've been dealing with for more than a decade."
The Vanderbilt location remains open for business in the face of pending litigation and will continue to operate. Parker stands firm in his belief that the tribe is operating within the law.
"We are prepared to protect these newly created jobs, along with our employees' rights to work in Vanderbilt and are prepared to defend our position in court," he said.
As of press time there was no confirmed date set by the court to hear arguments.