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.
Village Present Ed Posgate says he’s been told by Bay Mills that this is a small legal victory and he’s not aware of any current plans to re-open.
“It would be a great impact on the village but let’s make it clear, this is one of the steps. It’s not open yet,” Posgate says.
A written statement from Bay Mills Chair Kurt Perron says the tribe ultimately plans legal victory, and to move forward with its “planned developments.” The tribe did not immediate elaborate on the statement’s meaning.
If Bay Mills is ultimately victorious, the tribe would likely be allowed to build casinos anywhere it wants, without state approval, as long as it buys the land with a specific pool of funds.
“Probably the biggest implication (of today’s ruling) in the long run is just to highlight exactly how difficult it is to shut down a casino opened by an Indian tribe under these circumstances,” says Matthew Fletcher, of MSU’s Indigenous Law Center.
The Vanderbilt Casino is widely regarded as a test site for its Upper Peninsula owner. The tribe has expressed interest in building in Port Huron, and perhaps elsewhere.
It’s not clear what implications this case might have for another Upper Peninsula tribe’s plans to build a casino in downtown Lansing.