Vanderbilt Casino

Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

Recreational marijuana businesses are still banned in the village of Vanderbilt. A measure to reverse that ban failed by a vote of 72 to 84 Tuesday, according to unofficial election results.

An Upper Peninsula Indian tribe has taken a major step toward building a casino in Lansing.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Tuesday formally asked the U.S. Department of the Interior to take land surrounding Lansing’s downtown convention center into trust.

The tribe bought the land for a $245 million casino. But before the casino can be built, the federal government must first take the land into trust.

Tribal officials say the Interior Department could act on the request in a few weeks.

The U.S. Supreme Court says the State of Michigan has no right to sue an Upper Peninsula Indian tribe over a northern Michigan casino. The Bay Mills Indian Community opened an off-reservation casino in Vanderbilt back in 2010 without first getting permission from the state.

The split 5-4 decision could bring both sides to the bargaining table says Matthew Fletcher, an expert in Indigenous Law at Michigan State University.

Michigan State University

Legal watchers are starting to get anxious for a U.S. Supreme Court decision over a northern Michigan Indian casino.

It’s not likely the High Court will issue the final word on whether the Bay Mills Indian Community can run its casino in Vanderbilt. But it’s possible justices could issue a broad ruling with implications for tribal business across the nation, says tribal law expert Matthew Fletcher. He says the court could radically change the way tribes are, or are not, shielded from lawsuits.

Matthew Fletcher / Indigenous Law & Policy Center at MSU College of Law

A faceoff between the state of Michigan and an Upper Peninsula Indian tribe over a proposed casino reached the U.S. Supreme Court Monday. The arguments were about whether tribes are immune from lawsuits for enterprises that take place off of reservation land. 

  The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this morning in a case that pits Michigan against an Upper Peninsula Indian tribe.

The case revolves around the tribe's plan to open an off-reservation casino.

Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, joined us today from D.C.

Listen to the full interview above.

The nation’s highest court has agreed to decide whether the state can challenge a tribe’s right to open a casino in the northern Michigan town of Vanderbilt.

The U.S. Supreme Court accepted the case today, which will place it on the docket for the upcoming term.

The issue is whether state Attorney General Bill Schuette has the legal standing to challenge the casino. The Bay Mills Indian tribe says he does not – that the Vanderbilt property is part of the tribe’s independent territory purchased with money from a land settlement with the federal government.

It’s not clear whether the Obama Administration thinks a small Indian-run casino in Vanderbilt is legal, but the U.S. Solicitor General is clear that a case should not be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. That puts the federal government’s position at odds with the State of Michigan in the case.

At issue is whether the federal courts have jurisdiction to decide whether the casino has been built on “Indian lands.”

The U.S. Supreme Court made a move Monday that may indicate it’s interested in deciding the fate of a northern Michigan casino.

The Vanderbilt Casino was opened quietly by the Bay Mills Indian Community in 2010, and it was shuttered temporarily the next year by a federal court order.

The Upper Peninsula tribe maintains it has the right to open and run the off-reservation casino without permission from the state and in September the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the tribe.

Matthew Fletcher / Indigenous Law & Policy Center at MSU College of Law

A small casino north of Gaylord is expected to remain closed for now, despite a legal victory today for the Vanderbilt Casino. It quietly opened back in 2010 and was shuttered by a federal court last year.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals says a lower court had no right to close the casino. Its owner, the Bay Mills Indian Community, was sued by the state and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.

Challenges Ahead For A Proposed Lansing Casino

Jan 23, 2012

Leaders in Lansing have just made a big announcement, a partnership with an Upper Peninsula tribe that could bring a couple thousand permanent and temporary jobs to town. The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians wants to build a $245 million dollar casino with three-thousand slots and nearly 50 gaming tables - right downtown.

A three-judge federal appeals court panel is not convinced the Vanderbilt Casino is legal. It's not a final ruling on the legality of the Bay Mills Indian Community's operation.

It does mean the casino, north of Gaylord, will remain closed while the issue works its way through the courts.

Both the State of Michigan and a tribe with a competing casino in Petoskey want the casino closed permanently.

This ruling upholds another federal court ruling that shut down the facility back in March.

The Upper Peninsula Indian tribe that owns a small casino in Vanderbilt has filed an appeal in federal court. Leaders of the Bay Mills Indian Community say their casino, north of Gaylord, is legal and on Indian land. They argue a federal judge was wrong to shut the casino down earlier this week.

The preliminary injunction issued Tuesday shutters the casino, while the courts determine whether or not it's legal. Judge Paul Maloney opined Bay Mills has little chance of winning the case. But the tribe contends Maloney's reasoning is flawed.

A small casino in Vanderbilt was ordered closed Tuesday. A federal judge says the casino, north of Gaylord, is probably not legal. He says keeping it open while the courts decide for sure would do irreparable harm to a competing casino in Petoskey.

Winners & Losers
With most every court battle, there are winners and losers. Today, Vanderbilt Village President Ed Posgate feels like his town of about 500 people is on the losing end.

Vanderbilt Casino Ordered Closed

Mar 29, 2011

The Vanderbilt Casino has been ordered closed immediately. The casino is north of Gaylord, and it's owned by the Bay Mills Indian Community.

At about 9:30 this morning, Federal Judge Paul Maloney ordered the casino closed by noon. Maloney says there's a good chance the casino is not legal.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette says gamblers at a small casino in Vanderbilt may be breaking the law.

In a court filing this week, the A.G. said, if the Vanderbilt casino is not legal, its customers are also violating state and federal anti-gambling laws.

The state contends the Bay Mills Indian Community's Vanderbilt casino is illegal. Bay Mills leaders disagree.

The state's brief was filed in support of a Harbor Springs tribe's attempt to have the Vanderbilt casino shuttered immediately.

Vanderbilt Casino Expansion Opens Saturday

Jan 18, 2011

A small but embattled Indian-run casino in Vanderbilt closes temporarily this week to prepare for its expansion.

The Gaylord Herald Times reports the casino will close Thursday and Friday and reopen Saturday - doubled in size.

Meanwhile, two federal lawsuits seek to have the Bay Mills Indian Community casino shuttered permanently.

Area government officials say they anticipate soon receiving their first revenue-sharing payments from the casino.

Bay Mills Responds To Lawsuit

Dec 23, 2010

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.

State Files Suit To Close Vanderbilt Casino

Dec 21, 2010

The state Attorney General filed suit today in federal court to permanently close a small casino in the northern Michigan town of Vanderbilt.

Already last week, the state ordered the casino closed, but it remains open and now the state goes to court to demand it shuttered.

Lawsuit Coming Over Vanderbilt Casino

Dec 21, 2010

An Indian tribe in Harbor Springs plans to file a lawsuit tomorrow to try to shut down a small casino in Vanderbilt.

The Bay Mills casino has been open, despite an order to close that came late last week from the state Attorney General.

"We'll be asking for a temporary injunction to close the Bay Mills Indian Community casino in Vanderbilt down because we feel it's illegal," says Chairman Ken Harrington, of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.

State Orders Vanderbilt Casino Closed

Dec 16, 2010

The state Attorney General has ordered the Bay Mills Indian Community to immediately close its small casino in Vanderbilt, north of Gaylord.

Bay Mills just opened the casino last month, and the Upper Peninsula tribe has faced a swarm of criticism in the move. It didn't go through the normal state and federal approval process to open.

Critics, including five other gaming tribes, call the move unfair competition.

Now the Attorney General also says the casino is illegal.

A small casino that just opened last month in Vanderbilt is already growing. The Gaylord Herald Times reports leaders of the Bay Mills Indian Community are building on to the small facility, even as questions abound over its legality.

Several other Indian nations say it is not legal and that Vanderbilt is not place Bay Mills has any historic claim to. That's a traditional litmus test with off-reservation gaming.

The state has yet to decide whether the casino is legal.

Port Huron Paper Applauds Bay Mills

Nov 30, 2010

A newspaper in Port Huron is applauding an Upper Peninsula tribe for opening a casino other tribes call "illegal."

The Bay Mills Indian Community quietly launched a small casino in Vanderbilt, north of Gaylord. It's been widely speculated that the northern Michigan casino is a test case and that the tribe really has its eye on the state's "Thumb."

Editors of The Herald Times in Port Huron say a casino would be a welcome boon to that a city with a 25 percent jobless rate, and they hope Bay Mills is victorious.

Vanderbilt Casino Controversy

Nov 15, 2010

There's a new Indian-run casino in Vanderbilt north of Gaylord along I-75. It's a small facility with just a few dozen slot machines.

Its opening came as a shock to the state, and to several Indian nations in northern Michigan who contend it's illegal.

Quiet Open
The new casino opened so quietly early this month that its nearest competitor knew nothing of it.