Bay Mills casino plans shelved — for now

FLINT TWP. — For those hoping to get a job or play the slots at a local casino, game off for now.

Months of speculation that a casino might be built on vacant land at Lennon and Dutcher Roads owned by the Bay Mills Indian Community have been set back by a federal judge’s preliminary injunction last week, shutting down a controversial casino in Vanderbilt owned and operated by Bay Mills.

Bay Mills purchased 40 acres in Vanderbilt on August 2010 and opened a casino in November 2010, according to court documents. That purchase is considered a test case because it bypassed usual governmental channels based on Bay Mills claim of exemption under the Michigan Indian Lands Claims Settlement Act (MILSCA). Bay Mills has a tribal compact with the State of Michigan allowing them to operate class III gaming facilities on Indian land. Its interpretation is that any property purchased with Indian funding is Indian land.

Bay Mills purchased property in Flint Township last fall in a similar manner and also owns property in Port Huron.

A lawsuit challenging the validity of the Vanderbilt casino was filed by the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians and by the State of Michigan. Both were plaintiffs seeking the injunction.

In granting the injunction, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Maloney wrote: “MILCSA did not authorize Bay Mills to purchase land in Vanderbilt, Michigan. Such purchase is not a consolidation and enhancement of tribal landholdings. Therefore the Vanderbilt Casino is not on Indian Land.”

As far as Flint Township is concerned, there has been no change in the status quo of the 28-acre, commercially zone property Bay Mills owns here, said Township Supervisor Karyn Miller. “There really isn’t anything to say,” she said. “The judge gave his judgment against Bay Mills.” But she speculated Bay Mills will continue to pursue its case.

To date, Flint Township officials have had no contact with the Bay Mills group, Miller said. She also said that township officials have not held informal meetings or made any contingency plans for the outcome of the Bay Mills lawsuit one way or the other. She said she had not formally heard input from businesses located near the designated property.

Bay Mills officials did not respond to requests for comment.

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