Judge lets Saulte Ste. Maire Chippewa casino open its doors

Marquette, Michigan (AP) 9-07

A judge’s ruling will permit gambling at a new casino in northern Michigan owned by a tribe, at least until the resolution of a lawsuit over whether the casino can exist on land that is ineligible for Indian gaming.

As a result of the order issued by Allan Edgar, a federal judge from Tennessee acting as a visiting judge in the Western District of Michigan, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa planned to open the gambling center at its Kewadin Shores Casino and Hotel.

The tribe sued the National Indian Gaming Commission and the U.S. Department of Interior to allow the opening of the casino, which is near the Mackinac Bridge in Mackinac County’s St. Ignace Township. The tribe also filed a request seeking a preliminary injunction to halt the federal action, and Edgar’s ruling dealt with that filing.

The tribe started moving 800 slot machines and 26 gaming tables from a temporary facility into the new casino on during late August, The Detroit News reported.

The 29,070-square-foot casino is part of the $41 million complex, which also offers a three-story 81-room hotel, two restaurants and a lounge.

In February 2006, the gaming commission refused to allow the casino to open because part of the structure was mistakenly built on land where the U.S. government says Indian gambling is not allowed. The commission’s ruling wasn’t issued until the casino was nearly 80 percent done, however, so the tribe went ahead and completed the structure and opened the rest of the resort in June of that year.

The federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 dictates where Indian casinos can be located and specifies when property acquired by Indian tribes qualifies for gaming use.

The gaming commission could agree to allow the casino to open permanently or let the lawsuit take its course in court.

“We don’t have any comment,” said commission spokesman Shawn Pensoneau.