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Published in Economic Development
The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians’ former plans for a Lansing casino. The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians’ former plans for a Lansing casino. COURTESY PHOTO

Sault Tribe hires new law firm to seek relief from $88.8M ruling for casino damages

BY Monday, January 16, 2023 04:57pm

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians will seek relief and potentially appeal a recent circuit court ruling against its gaming entity for nearly $89 million in damages for two failed casino projects, and hire a new law firm as legal counsel.

Tribal officials announced the move today, nearly two weeks after Ingham County Circuit Judge Joyce Draganchuk ordered the Kewadin Casinos Gaming Authority to pay $88.88 million in breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation damages to the development entities behind the casino proposals in Lansing and New Boston.

Investors and developers in the projects initially loaned the gaming authority $8.8 million to advance the projects, based on the tribe’s claims that the off-reservation land would be taken into trust and thus facilitate the build-out of temporary and permanent casinos at both sites.

However, court filings indicate that the tribe never completed an offer to submit additional documents to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs to have the off-reservation land taken into trust.

The BIA initially determined that the tribe’s application lacked sufficient evidence to place the land into trust, but it left the application open “so the Tribe could present additional evidence that the acquisitions would enhance tribal lands. That did not happen,” Draganchuk wrote in her 28-page order.

“The Sault Tribe is deeply concerned with what it has discovered in reading the Court’s opinion,” Sault Tribe Chairman Austin Lowes said in a statement. “Our board has met with our legal counsel and is hopeful a new direction will lead to a better outcome.”

The tribe has ended its relationship with former legal counsel Patterson Law Firm, and will now retain Grewal Law PLLC for representation.

The tribe will first seek relief from Judge Draganchuk before potentially appealing the ruling to the state Court of Appeals, if necessary.

The nearly $88.9 million award includes $11.4 million in principal and interest on the initial loans, and more than $75 million in lost revenue that was calculated from the temporary and permanent casinos never launching. The casino proposals date back more than a decade.

The development partners initially filed suit against the gaming authority in March 2021, seeking to reclaim the loans based on alleged misrepresentations by the tribe. Since then, tribal attorneys argued multiple times that they had sovereign immunity in the case, though each of the tribes’ appeals were denied.

Read 1811 times Last modified on Tuesday, 17 January 2023 18:07
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