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Michigan Tribal Gaming

Native American tribes are sovereign nations. As such, Michigan does not have general regulatory authority over Indian casinos, although the state does have oversight authority over compliance with the Tribal-State Compact provisions. Indian casinos are regulated by the National Indian Gaming Commission and the government of the specific tribal community.

Michigan currently has compacts with 12 tribes that operate 23 casinos throughout the state. Tribal-State Gaming Compacts are written agreements between the tribal communities and the state, are signed by the governor, and give the MGCB oversight responsibility for the state's Native American casinos. This responsibility, initially assigned to the Michigan Department of Agriculture's Office of Racing Commissioner (ORC), was transferred to the MGCB staff in June 1997 (the five-member Board has no involvement with tribal casinos).

Tribal gaming in Michigan started in the late 1980s and offered Class I and Class II gaming. It wasn't until the mid-1990s that Class III gaming was approved. In 1993, seven tribes and the state entered into a compact under a 1993 Federal Court Consent Judgment. Five years later, in 1998, four more tribes were granted casino licenses. In February 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the anti-casino group, Michigan Gaming Opposition (MGO), challenge to these four tribal casino compacts.

In 2005, the state filed a lawsuit against the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians alleging that the tribes owed at least $9.5 million in revenue-sharing fees under their compacts. The tribes contended that the State Lottery's Club Keno game violated the tribes' exclusive gaming rights and nullified the revenue-sharing agreement. In April 2008, Michigan officials announced the settlement of the dispute. Under the new agreement, the state received half of the $52 million accrued in the tribes' escrow accounts. It was also decided that exclusivity rights would no longer be defined on a statewide basis, but on a limited regional basis.

In April 2006, the Michigan Supreme Court agreed to hear a case brought by the MGO questioning whether Gov. Jennifer Granholm had authority to approve a second casino site for the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians, a move she made in 2003. The case specifically addressed the Odawa Indians, but the group behind the lawsuit also planned to question the legality of a different casino in Manistee and two other planned casinos. In May 2007, the Court ruled against the anti-gambling group. This decision also upheld the compacts with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. In January 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that cleared the path for construction of a casino in the Wayland Township. The court declined to hear the long-running case filed by the MGO against the tribe and government. Shortly after getting final approval of its request to take over the former Ampro Products factory and surrounding land into trust, the tribe finalized a gaming compact with the state and began work on Gun Lake Casino.

In February 2008, a congressional hearing was held regarding two bills to approve land-settlement agreements between Gov. Granholm and two tribes. The first bill would have allowed the Bay Mills Chippewa to build a casino in Port Huron; the second would have allowed the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians to build a casino in Romulus, Flint or southern Monroe County. In June 2008, the House rejected the proposals.

In May 2008, the MGO appealed the U.S. Court of Appeals decision allowing the Gun Lake Tribe to build a casino in West Michigan. In July 2008, a decision was issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals not to rehear the case, which had already caused delays to the project.

In 2010, the Bay Mills Indian Community built an off-reservation casino near Gaylord. The State of Michigan sued the tribe to shut the casino down. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In May 2014, the High Court ruled that the tribe maintained tribal immunity even in off-reservation business activities and could not be sued. However, the State of Michigan had other legal tools at its disposal to close down the casino.

In 2020, the Bay Mills Indian Community stated it will no longer pursue an off-reservation casino in Vanderbilt, Michigan.

Michigan Tribal Gaming Properties

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