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Fed drops lawsuit against Kewadin Casino St. Ignace

January 25, 2009

ST. IGNACE, Mich. The U.S. Department of Interior and the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) have voluntarily withdrawn its lawsuit in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals challenging whether land in St. Ignace, which was taken into federal trust for the tribe, was eligible for gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Last August, Judge Edgar of the U.S. district court for the western district of Michigan, ruled in favor of the tribe.

The tribe has been operating in its new casino in St. Ignace since late 2007 under a preliminary injunction which restrained the United States from taking any action pending the outcome of the case. Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), gaming is prohibited on lands taken into trust after October 17, 1988, unless the land is contiguous to the reservation on that date, or the land is restored lands to a restored tribe. On August 29, 2008, Judge Edgar ruled that the tribe's new casino was built on land contiguous to the tribe's reservation and, therefore, is eligible for casino gaming.

"The dismissal of the United States' appeal of Judge Edgar's ruling in favor of the tribe comes after a long struggle with the Department of Interior and the National Indian Gaming Commission", said Bruce Greene, attorney for the Sault Tribe.

He added, "It is troubling that the tribe's trustee took such a strident position about the replacement casino located only a few hundred feet from the location of the antiquated casino. Fortunately, Judge Edgar construed the law in a manner consistent with the tribe's interpretation."

Sault Tribe Chairman Darwin 'Joe' McCoy said, "We are most gratified to be vindicated by the court regarding the eligibility of lands for gaming under IGRA. The tribe believed it was always operating within the law, and was surprised to learn that the Interior Department and the NIGC disagreed back in 2006. After a long court battle, the court agreed with the tribe. With the dismissal of the appeal, there is no longer any legal cloud over the new casino in St. Ignace."

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