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Gaming Guru

Arnold M. Knightly
 

Stay stalls plan for Station-managed casino in Michigan

7 March 2007

MICHIGAN -- A plan for an American Indian casino in Michigan managed by Station Casinos is again on hold.

U.S. District Court Judge Garrett Penn in Washington, D.C., on Monday issued an order for a stay pending further judicial review of an appeal that was filed after an anti-gaming lobbying group's lawsuit seeking to stop the casino was dismissed two weeks ago.

The stay came three hours before the Department of Interior was scheduled to take 146 acres in southwest Michigan into trust for the Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, commonly referred to as the Gun Lake Tribe.

"We're confident that at the end of the day the tribe will prevail through the appeals," said Lesley Pittman, Station Casinos vice president of corporate and government relations. "We look forward to that day so we can support them on their way to economic self-sufficiency."

Station is paying the tribe's legal fees in this case.

Penn dismissed the initial lawsuit on Feb. 23, apparently clearing the way for Station Casinos to manage its second tribal casino by summer 2008.

The lawsuit brought by Michigan Gaming Opposition, also known as MichGO, challenged the location of the proposed reservation, 25 miles north of Kalamazoo, Mich. MichGO argued that the federal government should conduct an environmental impact study for the project.

Penn stated in his ruling that the "public interest is best served" by granting the stay, even though "a historically oppressed tribe" will "continue to suffer every day that the litigation continues."

Nye said the tribe will ask the court to put the case on an expedited schedule. If that request is granted, a decision could be reached by the court six months after the appeal is filed.

"There has never been a casino placed in west Michigan which is a metro area," said MichGO President Todd Boorsma, adding the state is already saturated by the casinos already in operation. "The time to say 'no' is now."

Boorsma said last week that the casino would hurt the "economic flavor" of the downtown areas of the neighboring towns by luring customers to the resort.

MichGO, the lawsuit's sole plaintiff, has 60 days from the dismissal date to file an appeal with the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

Station Casinos first signed a contract with the Gun Lake Tribe in 2003 to help secure financing for the project and manage the casino for seven years once the property opens.

The stay cancels the planned conversion of a warehouse and a factory into a mixed-use resort with hotel rooms, restaurants, retail and a casino, until the resolution of the appeal.

Boorsma said he hopes that the stay is a sign that the environment has changed in a state that has 17 American Indian casinos run by nine different tribes.

"The worm has turned," Boorsma said. "The market's changed. We have reached saturation point and it's time for the federal government to wake up and realize that."

Stay stalls plan for Station-managed casino in Michigan is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.