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Supreme Court ruling will slow development of some Indian casinos

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WASHINGTON D.C. - The Supreme Court has handed down a ruling this week that allows a lawsuit to proceed which challenges the U.S. Interior Department's decision to take land into trust on behalf of the Gun Lake Tribe of Michigan. Tribal lands must be taken into federal trust as a prerequisite to building a tribal casino.

Lawyers for the plaintiff, David Patchak, argued the land could not legally be placed in trust under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 because the Gun Lake Tribe was not recognized in 1934. Therefore, the casino should be closed down.

"The decision has the potential to change how the federal government takes land into trust for tribes," said Steven Light, co-director of the Institute for the Study of Tribal Gaming Law and Policy at the University of North Dakota. "It's potentially a huge problem for expansion of gaming for recently recognized tribes."

The most notable tribes impacted by this ruling are:

Gun Lake Tribe of Michigan (Gun Lake Casino)
Cowlitz Tribe in Washington state
Snoqualmie Tribe (Snoqualmie Casino)
Shinnecock Tribe in New York
Mashpee Wampanoag in Massachusetts
Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi (Firekeepers)

Other Indian casino projects may find it difficult to fund construction, and others may be delayed until after the Gun Lake matter is settled in court.

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