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Old 02-25-2005, 02:04 PM   #1
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Post U.S. Supreme Court Decision Clears Hurdle for Indian Casinos in West Michigan

U.S. Supreme Court decision clears hurdle for Indian casinos in West Michigan

(Calhoun County, February 23, 2005, 4:42 p.m.)
WOOD-TV, Channel 8, Grand Rapids, Michigan

A U.S. Supreme Court decision clears one hurdle for supporters of American Indian casinos in West Michigan.

The Supreme Court decided not to hear an argument from anti-casino groups that claimed the state crossed the line when it created a compact with Native American tribes. The court didn't say why it wouldn't hear the argument.

This all stems from a late night agreement forged by former Governor John Engler between the state and four Native American tribes. Anti-casino groups claim that agreement was unconstitutional.

The plan by the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Pottawatomi Indians to build a casino just east of Battle Creek just got a shot in the arm.

"Now we don't have that hurdle to face anymore, and the United States Supreme Court, again, said that there was no constitutional issues," said Homer Austin Mandoka, a tribal council member.

Anti-casino groups argued the state legislature violated the Michigan Constitution in 1998 when it agreed to a compact with four tribes. The Michigan Supreme Court disagreed and the U.S. Supreme Court won't hear the argument.

"We had hoped and still believe that our case was worthy of United States Supreme Court attention, but we're also realistic...the court takes one in a hundred cases," said Bob Jonker who represents two anti-casino groups.

One of those groups is fighting to keep the Firekeepers Casino from being built in Calhoun County. He says the state took the power out of the citizens' hands by signing that compact. He says his clients just want the chance to say whether or not they want blackjack, poker, or slot machines in their own backyard.

"The discussion, I think, is growing and I think the fight will continue until communities have secured for themselves the right to say 'no', if they don't want a casino in their community," said Jonker.

Tribal leaders say they're prepared for whatever comes next. They say they haven't done anything wrong and point to the Supreme Court decision as proof.

"We are all committed to the project. We will do whatever needs to be done. Firekeepers Casino will happen," said Mandoka.

We are still several years from seeing a casino in Calhoun County. The Michigan state Court of Appeals has yet to rule on the case concerning state money used to help the tribes build the casinos. Plus, the Bureau of Indian Affairs is expected to finish an environmental study on the Firekeepers Casino within the next few weeks.

The move by the Supreme Court comes too late to help the Gun Lake Band of Pottawatomi Indians who hope to build a casino in Allegan County. The decision would have made it possible for the tribe to get a compact with the state to build a full-fledged casino in Wayland Township. But, in December, the state Senate rescinded its resolution to give the tribe its compact. Now, the only hope for the tribe is to get another resolution from the state, or once it gets its land into trust, convince the federal government to enforce a compact on the state.
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Old 02-26-2005, 09:04 PM   #2
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Historian,
Another very good report. I hope that the compact go through, the casinoes get built, and it all wokrs out in the end. I also hope that federal recognition works out witht he Lumbees in NC works out abd they can get their casino when the time comes.
Jerry
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