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Tribe settles court battle with State of Michigan

BAY MILLS — Bay Mills Indian Community has reached an agreement with the State of Michigan to resolve a decade-long court battle over tribal gaming on a parcel of land in Vanderbilt, Michigan. BMIC and the State of Michigan had each sued one another to determine whether the Tribe could engage in gaming on the parcel of land.

Under the agreement, both the Tribe and the State of Michigan will dismiss their lawsuits against one another and the Tribe agreed to not attempt to operate a gaming facility on the parcel for at least five years. The agreement to dismiss the cases simply ends the litigation, and does not include any other terms regarding whether the land is eligible for gaming.

The lawsuits between the tribe and the state began in 2010. The dispute reached the United States Supreme Court in 2016, where BMIC won a ruling that affirmed that Indian tribes have sovereign immunity from lawsuits. The case was sent back to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, where the parties remained in a dispute until today’s dismissal.

BMIC acquired the parcel of land in Vanderbilt under the Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act, which allows the Tribe to use certain trust funds to acquire additional tribal lands. Bay Mills’ goal in developing a gaming facility on the Vanderbilt parcel was to provide new economic opportunities for the Tribe, its citizens, and partner communities.

Prior to this agreement, the case was set to go to trial and lead to more litigation between the parties. With BMIC soon to become one of the first tribes in the United States to engage in statewide internet gaming, the Tribe made the decision that continuing the litigation would not be an effective use of its resources. The Tribe has achieved its goal of creating new economic opportunities through its internet gaming partnership with DraftKings, along with other ventures.

“Ending this litigation will help end a long-running dispute between BMIC, the State of Michigan, and other tribes; and, it will help improve cooperation on economic development between Michigan tribes. The dismissal also preserves the tribe’s ability to restore and enhance our tribal homelands to better serve its people,” tribal officials said in a prepared statement.

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