A northern Michigan casino is at the center of a major U.S. Supreme Court case dealing with tribal rights.
T he Michigan Attorney General is fighting the Bay Mills tribe over whether or not they can build a casino on non-reservation land.
T he Supreme Court heard the opening arguments from both parties Monday morning and there is still plenty of uncertainty of what decision they will make.
T h e B ay Mills casino in Vanderbilt is boarded up and has sat vacant since March of 2011. The land was purchased from a ski resort and is nearly 100 miles away from the Bay Mills Upper Peninsula reservation.
I t was shut down after the state said the tribe was running an illegal gambling operation , but that ruling was later overturned in federal appeals court and is now in the hands of the Supreme Court.
"If Bay Mills is allowed to break the law by opening casinos outside Indian lands, tribes that follow the law will be unfairly disadvantaged by illegal, competing casinos, or even encouraged to engage in the same unlawful behavior , " Bill Schuette, Michigan Attorney General said.
T his decision will likely have national implications. I t could change the way states are allowed to handle tribal immunity.
"We are confident the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold state sovereignty and clarify that tribes have no sovereign immunity when they pursue illegal gambling operations on state land , " Schuette said.
B ut beyond this legal and power struggle is pure economics for those who want the Bay Mills casino to be open for business.
" Tribal casinos employ a lot of people, pay good wages, traditionally really generous with local municipalities and local non profits ," Paul Beachnau, Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director said.
B ut oftentimes , only communities with nearby tribes are able to benefit.
" It would support a very growing and vibrant Industry and give people other entertainment venues ," Beachnau said.
T he Supreme Court is not expected to decide on this case until the summer of 2014.