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Michigan Tribal Casino Expansion Update

29 March 2006

In December of last year, I provided an update on the permanent casino plans in Detroit, Michigan. After publishing that column I received several inquiries as to what other casino developments are pending in Michigan, specifically related to the Native American casino segment. In the State of Michigan there are 17 Native American Class III casinos, which are operated by 9 federally recognized Indian tribes. Two additional tribes have federal recognition and a signed Class III Gaming compact with the State of Michigan: the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians. A third tribe, the Gun Lake Band of Potawatomi Indians, has received federal recognition and has been seeking a Class III compact for several years. Below is a brief status report of these three casino projects:

Pokagon Band. In 1998, the Pokagon Band signed a Class III Gaming compact with the State of Michigan. Since 1998, the Pokagon Band has been seeking to finalize its Land in Trust application and it has fought several legal challenges brought by certain anti-gaming groups. On January 27, 2006, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians issued a press release announcing the Department of Interior's official action to acquire the Band's New Buffalo, Michigan land into trust for the construction of the Four Winds Casino Resort. The Pokagon Band has an agreement with Lakes Entertainment, Inc. to build and operate its Four Winds Casino Resort. Individuals interested in learning more about the timeline for this project can visit: www.mrgmi.com.

Nottawaseppi Huron Band. In 1998, the Huron Band signed a Class III Gaming compact with the State of Michigan. Similar to the Pokagon Band, the Huron Band has fought many legal challenges concerning its Land in Trust Application and constitutionality of its Class III compact. The Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians has plans to open a casino near Battle Creek, Michigan. However, the project has been delayed because of a legal challenge that has required it to complete an additional environmental impact study of the effects its casino would have on the surrounding area. The Huron Band has entered a management contract with Full House Resorts, Inc. Persons interested in monitoring the progress of this project can visit: www.fullhouseresorts.com.

Gun Lake Band. Although a federally recognized Indian Tribe, the Gun Lake Band has yet to enter into a Class III Gaming compact with the State of Michigan. The Gun Lake Band began its formal quest for a casino near Wayland in 2001. Its Application to take Land into Trust won preliminary approval from the federal government in 2004, and in 2005 the U.S. Department of Interior gave the final approval. However, the tribe's Land in Trust determination is currently being challenged in federal court based on the belief that the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs did not properly complete its environmental impact study before agreeing to take the tribe's land into trust for its proposed Class III facility. Individuals interested in monitoring the status of this project can visit: www.mbpi.org.

In addition to these three pending projects there are also discussions for casino projects in Port Huron, Michigan; and Romulus, Michigan. These projects would also be Native American casino projects and would be the result of a Native American land claim settlement. However, before these projects can move forward the United States Congress is required to give its approval. In addition, the Burt Lake Band is currently waiting for a determination on its Federal Recognition Application from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Should the BIA issue a favorable ruling on its application, the Burt Lake Band would also be in a position to begin discussions with the State of Michigan on a Class III Compact.

David Waddell
David Waddell is an attorney for Regulatory Management Counselors, P.C. (RMC), which assists businesses in navigating the legislative, regulatory and licensing systems governing Michigan’s commercial and tribal casino industries. He is the co-author of The State of Michigan Gaming Law Legal Resource Book and one of the founders of The Michigan Gaming Newsletter.

David Waddell Websites:

www.michigangaming.com
David Waddell
David Waddell is an attorney for Regulatory Management Counselors, P.C. (RMC), which assists businesses in navigating the legislative, regulatory and licensing systems governing Michigan’s commercial and tribal casino industries. He is the co-author of The State of Michigan Gaming Law Legal Resource Book and one of the founders of The Michigan Gaming Newsletter.

David Waddell Websites:

www.michigangaming.com