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June 4, 2011

Gun Lake Tribe Distributes $2.5 Million-Plus in First Casino Revenue Sharing

Filed under: Business,Gaming,News Alerts,Politics — Tags: , , — Gale Courey Toensing @ 2:00 pm

Less than six months after the Gun Lake Tribe opened the doors to the Gun Lake Casino, the tribe has distributed more than $2.5 million to state and local governments, making good on its long held promise to share its gaming revenue with its neighbors.

Tribal leaders and members of the newly formed Local Revenue Sharing Board (LRSB) met on June 2 for the happy occasion. The state received a check for $2,059,482 and the board received $514,871. The payments are made under the terms of the tribal-state compact and are based on Gun Lake Casino’s first two months of operation, which began in February.

D.K. Sprague, chairman of the Gun Lake Tribe announced the revenue-sharing distributions to the gathering of about 30 people.

“Many years ago we made a commitment to our neighbors to provide funds to help build a better community. Today we have followed through on our commitment and that marks another important milestone in our shared progress,” Sprague said.

The LRSB is responsible for establishing bylaws that govern the local distribution process. The tribal-state compact provides funding to reimburse municipalities for costs related to the operation of the casino, including public safety services, and to replace tax revenue. Other possible uses for local revenue sharing funds include funding for schools and civic organizations.

The payments were higher than expected, Roger VanVolkinberg, the Wayland Township supervisor and chairman of the LRSB told Wood TV. “Anything was a blessing, obviously,” VanVolkinberg said. “Like I said, we kind of worked off estimated numbers, so all along, my estimate of a $200,000 check to start was great in my mind. So, to see this one come through – I’m almost speechless, to be honest with you.” The $514,871 check he received on behalf of the LRSB represented 2 percent of the casino’s slot earnings while the $2,059,482 check to the state represented 8 percent of the earnings from the electronic games.

“The local community will benefit greatly from these much needed funds provided by the tribe. This will allow area municipalities to improve public safety and infrastructure services to make life better for all residents,” VanVolkinberg said.

The state revenue sharing payments are made to help the economic development and job creation efforts of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Gun Lake spokesman James Nye said. These payments depend on the preservation of exclusive gaming rights within the tribe’s competitive market area which includes the cities of Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Lansing and the entire counties of Kent, Kalamazoo and Ingham, among others, Nye said.

The tribe has earned nearly $26 million on electronic games alone, excluding table games, drinks and food, in the four months since the casino has been open. The $157 million, 87,000-square-feet casino is less than half the size originally planned. The original Phase 1 included 2,500 slot machines; that number is now around 1,400. The plan was scaled down because of the downturn in the economy, but the tribe hopes to get back to the original Phase 1 at some point in the next few years. The casino currently employs more than 900 people.

In addition to the slot machines, the casino features 28 table games, a food court including, Tim Hortons, Johnny Rockets, Cold Stone Creamery and Villa Pizza, Sandhill Café, a 225-seat restaurant, along with bars, lounges, and live entertainment.

Gun Lake Casino is located off Exit 61 on U.S. 131, halfway between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. The Gun Lake Tribe, whose traditional name is the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians owns the casino. Gun Lake Casino is operated by the tribe’s management partner, MPM Enterprises, LLC, which is owned by an affiliate of Station Casinos, Inc. and private investors from Michigan. For more information, visit www.gunlakecasino.com.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

August 27, 2011

Gun Lake Tribe Donates K-9 to County Sheriff’s Department

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Department in Wayland, Mich., has a new officer – Medo, a German shepherd, who graduated at the top of his class at the K-9 Academy International.

Medo’s “employment” by the County Sheriff’s Department was funded with a $12,000 donation from the Gun Lake Tribe (the Match-E-Be-Nash-E-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians). On August 25, Gun Lake Tribe officials and members of the Allegan County Sherriff’s Office got together for a public ceremony to announce the donation and introduce Medo to the community. Attending the event were Gun Lake Chairman D.K. Sprague and Allegan County Sheriff Blaine Koops, Gun Lake’s elected Tribal Council, Gun Lake Tribal Gaming Authority staff, Gun Lake Casino management team, tribal public safety officers and the Allegan County Sheriff’s Command Staff and K-9 Unit.

The tribe and the Gun Lake Casino each contributed $6,000 for the “new furry resource,” the tribe said in a press release. The tribe opened its Gun Lake Casino with around 700 employees on February 10, 2011. The casino was an immediate hit, requiring the tribe to hire an additional 200 people by the end of March. Two months later – by the end of June – Gun Lake was able to make its first state and local revenue sharing payments of more than $2.5 million. Future revenue sharing payments will be based on six-month operating periods, the tribe said.

“Thanks to our outstanding staff of 900 team members and the popularity of our first-class entertainment facility, we are excited to help the community with the addition of Medo,” Sprague said. “This donation maintains our commitment to public safety, and our solid partnership with the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department.”

In early June, the tribe announced the certification of its own Department of Public Safety to enforce federal, state, and tribal law and to assist local law enforcement agencies in the performance of their duties when needed.

Koops welcomed Medo to the Sheriff’s Department. “Besides our staff, one of the greatest resources this agency has is the K-9 program. I cannot thank the Gun Lake Tribe and the Gun Lake Casino enough for their generous gift,” Koops said. Addressing Sprague and the other tribal officials, Koops said, “Your gift may one day save the life of a child, solve a serious crime, or track down and apprehend a dangerous offender.”

When the speeches were over, it was Medo’s turn to shine. He demonstrated some of the skills he had learned at the K-9 Academy International in Lowell, Michigan, including search and rescue tactics, locating a lost child, and identifying illegal substances. Medo was chosen out of 11 puppies based on his solid physique and demeanor.

“He was one of the top-ranking dogs in his class and one of the best dogs they had,” said Gun Lake spokesman Jim Nye. “Out of the four that were available, there was one that was jumping up and barking and making a scene. When you have a German shepherd acting like that it can be a little scary. Medo was calm and serene by comparison. He’s a good dog.”

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comAtleo Blessing Helps Bid Final Farewell to Jack Layton - Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

August 31, 2011

Carcieri-based Challenge Reaches Supreme Court

Filed under: Gaming,News Alerts,Politics — Tags: , , , , — Gale Courey Toensing @ 6:13 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to review a federal appeals court ruling that challenges the Interior Department’s decision to take into trust the land that the Gun Lake Casino is built on. This crucial case is the first challenge based on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Carcieri v. Salazar to reach the high court, but it also raises issues that potentially threaten not only the security of Indian trust lands, but also public lands such as forests and national parks held in trust by the federal government.

The Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, known as the Gun Lake Tribe, and the federal government have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review a ruling issued by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals last January that said David Patchak, a former trustee in Wayland County, Michigan, has standing to bring a lawsuit against the Interior Department for taking into trust 147 acres near Grand Rapids where the tribe operates its casino. The casino opened in February.

Patchak, who lives near the casino, alleged that the rural character of the area would be destroyed and the value of his property would drop. “As a practical matter, it would be very strange to deny Patchak standing in this case,” the appeals panel said in ruling in Patchak’s favor. The ruling reversed a decision by the Washington federal district court that said Patchak did not have standing and was barred from filing the complaint by the Quiet Title Act (QTA), which says the federal government cannot be divested of title to Indian trust lands. The appeals court expanded the previous criteria for “standing”—the right to initiate a lawsuit—which basically requires someone to be injured or affected by an action by granting Patchak “prudential standing.” Under constitutional standing, a plaintiff has suffered an “injury-in-fact” that was caused by the defendant’s action and that can be redressed by a favorable judicial decision. In prudential standing, a judge-driven decision, the plaintiff must show that his or her injury is within the “zone of interests” that the statute or constitutional provision at issue is meant to protect. The appeals court ruling was a departure from rulings in similar cases from four other circuit courts.

The questions presented to the Supreme Court by Gun Lake are: “I. Whether the Quiet Title Act and its reservation of the United States’ sovereign immunity in suits involving ‘trust or restricted Indian lands’ apply to all suits concerning land in which the United States ‘claims an interest” … as the Seventh, Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits have held, or whether they apply only when the plaintiff claims title to the land, as the D.C. Circuit held. II. Whether prudential standing to sue under federal law can be based on either (i) the plaintiff’s ability to ‘police’ an agency’s compliance with the law, as held by the D.C. Circuit but rejected by the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Circuits, or (ii) interests protected by a different federal statute than the one on which suit is based, as held by the D.C. Circuit but rejected by the Federal Circuit.”

Although the questions presented do not directly reference the Carcieri case Patchak’s basic claim, which he filed under the Administrative Procedure Act, is that the Interior secretary was not authorized to take Gun Lake’s land into trust because the tribe was not under federal jurisdiction in 1934 when the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) was passed—a challenge that relies on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Carcieri v. Salazar ruling in 2009. Carcieri v. Salazar was filed in the Supreme Court by the State of Rhode Island earlier that year. Named after former Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri, the lawsuit claimed that the Interior secretary did not have the authority to take 31 acres of land into trust for the Narragansett Indians for elder housing, because the tribe was not “now under federal jurisdiction” in 1934 when the IRA was passed. In ruling in Carcieri’s favor, Justice Clarence Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Steven Breyer, and Samuel Alito. Breyer filed a concurring opinion. Justice David Souter filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which Ginsburg joined. And Justice John Paul Stevens filed a dissenting opinion.

Patchak’s lawsuit continues 10 years of struggle on the Gun Lake Tribe’s part to secure its reservation land against a group of powerful and heavily funded anti-Indian casino opponents in Michigan who filed lawsuit after lawsuit through state and federal courts to try to stop Interior from taking the land into trust. The Gun Lake Tribe was federally acknowledged by the BIA in 1999. Patchak’s opposition dates back to early 2001, when Gun Lake first filed its trust land application under the Indian Reorganization Act and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. On March 9, 2001, Patchak wrote a racist screed to then-President George W. Bush opposing Gun Lake’s application and Indian trust lands in general. “What happened hundreds of years ago is the past, these treaties were made between a fledgling nation and groups of people who lived here but had no rights,” Patchak wrote. “Today, this is the United States of America and these tribes of Indians are full citizens … If the government feels that this nation owes the Indians more that [sic] it owes it’s [sic] average citizen, then let the nation contribute equally. Give them federal lands that are owned by all the people and controlled solely by the government to build their casinos. Do not let them come into private areas, buy land and then claim that land is now Indian land controlled by the federal government and the local people have nothing to say in what that land can be used for.” In August, 2001, two anti-Indian casino groups with which Patchak had ties – 23 Is Enough and MichGO (Michigan Gaming Opposition) – filed a lawsuit opposing Gun Lake’s trust application. A consistent player throughout the 10 years of opposition against the tribe is the Michigan law firm Warner, Norcross & Judd, which represented both 23 Is Enough and MichGO, and now represents Patchak.

On May 13, 2006, Interior published a final notice to take the land into trust in the Federal Register. Although the opponents had lost every lawsuit they had filed against the department up to that time, they appealed the decision, delaying the finalization of the trust land until January 30, 2009. Just days before Interior placed the 147 acres into trust on that date, the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. District Court in Washington denied two motions from MichGO to stop Interior’s action. Both motions were based on the Carcieri case, which was pending at that time. One motion presented the same challenge as Carcieri against the Interior Secretary’s authority to take land into trust, and the other asked the court to stop Interior’s action until Carcieri was decided. Almost immediately after MichGO’s motions were denied, Patchak filed a motion for an emergency stay to stop the secretary from going ahead with the land transaction, but the federal district court denied his request and Interior finally took Gun Lake’s land into trust on January 30, 2009. Three weeks later, however, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Carcieri opinion, agreeing with Patchak’s argument that the IRA limits the secretary’s trust authority to tribes “under federal jurisdiction” in 1934. Patchak’s case then wended its way through the Washington federal district court and the appeals court, which ruled last January.

The Patchak case is “very complex,” said Matthew L.M. Fletcher, an associate professor of law and the director of the Indigenous Law & Policy Center at Michigan State University College of Law. The best outcome for Gun Lake would be if the Supremes review and reverse the appeals court ruling. That would mean the district court decision denying Patchak standing would prevail and the case would be over. If the Court denies review or reviews and upholds the appeals ruling that Patchak has standing to sue, then the case will be remanded to the federal district court for a trial to determine whether Interior Department can take the Gun Lake’s land into trust under Carcieri. “So this isn’t exactly a Carcieri case yet. It could be if Patchak prevails here one way or the other,” Fletcher said. Under this scenario, the case theoretically could circle through the federal and circuit courts and reach the Supreme Court a second time.

If Patchak wins the Carcieri argument, it’s likely that nothing will change for the time being, Fletcher said. “Frankly, no one knows what happens if Patchak ultimately wins on the merits. The land is already owned (in trust) by the federal government, and I’m unaware of any federal court ordering the United States to divest itself of land. That’s a whole new constitutional question, perhaps, if it gets that far. The Quiet Title Act is supposed to end all discussion when it comes to Indian lands, because Congress chose expressly not to waive federal sovereign immunity once Indian lands are in trust. However, if it means the government has to return the land to the Gun Lake Band in fee, then the question becomes whether the National Indian Gaming Commission and/or the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Grand Rapids will force the tribe to shut down its gaming enterprise.”

So, the potentially huge question for Indian country revolves around the Quiet Title Act, Fletcher said. “If the immunity barrier in the QTA can be gotten around, then much trust land recently taken into trust could be challenged by virtually anyone who is strongly opposed to trust land acquisitions. What’s remarkable about this case is the standing holding. Basically, all Patchak can prove is that he very strongly opposes Indian gaming. He’s not actually injured by it at all, other than worries about the ‘rural character’ of his community, whatever that means. Wayland and its surrounding townships long have hoped for more industry and economic growth – I know, I grew up there. So it’s just one guy for all we know who doesn’t want that. He’s pretty firmly in a tiny minority,” Fletcher said.

Gun Lake presents a number of arguments in seeking the high court’s review. Because the appeals court decision is on conflict with four other appeals court decisions in similar cases it has “opened a substantial gap” in the federal government’s sovereign immunity under the QTA from litigation challenging its title to trust or restricted Indian lands, as well as federal lands generally, the lawsuit says. If the appeals court ruling is left in place, that means anyone with a gripe could create a challenge in any case in which the federal government “claims an interest” whether it is Indian lands, national parks, public lands, easements or any other lands covered by the QTA’s terms and exceptions.

Also, because the D.C. Circuit hears almost all lawsuits against the federal government, prospective plaintiffs will now be able to “forum shop” their way around the United States’ sovereign immunity in disputes challenging the federal government’s title to land or “avoid the QTA and controlling circuit law altogether by simply filing their lawsuits in the District of Columbia,” the Gun Lake petition says.

The federal government’s petition asks the high court to consider “(w)hether (the Administrative Procedures Act) waives the sovereign immunity of the United States from a suit challenging its title to lands that it holds in trust for an Indian Tribe,” and more directly seeks the high court’s review of the Carcieri ruling in asking “(w)hether a private individual who alleges injuries resulting from the operation of a gaming facility on Indian trust land has prudential standing to challenge the decision of the Secretary of the Interior to take title to that land in trust, on the ground that the decision was not authorized by the Indian Reorganization Act.”

Among the arguments presented by the federal government in seeking the high court’s review is that the Administrative Procedure Act under which Patchak filed his lawsuit against the Interior Department does not allow an end run around the Quiet Title Act’s provision that precludes any person from seeking to divest the United States of title to Indian trust lands.

“If left unreviewed, the circumvention of the QTA countenanced by the court of appeals will therefore frustrate the purpose of trust acquisition, which is to provide a land base for Indians in order to encourage tribal self sufficiency and economic development,” the federal government petition says. The appeals court ruling implies that whenever the Interior Secretary takes final action on trust land, “plaintiffs could bring an APA suit contending that his action was contrary to law because the land is not properly held in trust for Indians. That might even be so when the United States has held the land in trust for years and the tribe has made substantial investments in it. Allowing such never-ending attacks on the trust status of lands would severely undermine the United State’s longstanding recognition of tribal sovereignty, self government and self determination. “

Resolution of the Carcieri problem may come down to a race between actions by the courts and Congress. But even within the legislature, there’s a battle between the House and Senate over Indian trust land. There are efforts in Congress with the HR 1291 sponsored by Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and HR 1234, sponsored by Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.) to pass “a clean Carcieri fix” that would clarify the Interior Secretary’s authority to take land into trust for all federally acknowledged tribes. In the Senate, however, Senators John McCain (R-Az.) and Jon Kyl (R-Az.) have introduced a bill that would make it almost impossible for the Interior Department to acquire trust lands for gaming or any other purpose that are not already reservations.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comIn the Spirit of Our Ancestors - Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

March 13, 2012

Gun Lake Tribal Members Support a Bald Cause—Childhood Cancer Research

Child Cancer Anne James Photography 270x400 Gun Lake Tribal Members Support a Bald Cause—Childhood Cancer Research

More than 50 people have signed up to go bald to support childhood cancer research. (By Anne James Photography)

A tribal casino in western Michigan is embarking on a campaign against childhood cancer that’s creative, bold—and bald.

More than 50 people have signed up to shave their heads to raise money for childhood cancer research through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. “We’ve actually got a really nice assortment [of volunteers],” said Carter Pavey, director of marketing for Gun Lake Casino, shortly before the March 15 event. “The general manager of the casino and I are participating, a few local police officers are participating, along with the chairman and vice chairman of the tribe. A local DJ is shaving his head and the moustache he has had for 30 years.”

An additional 20 people have balked at going bare, but are actively trying to raise money for the event.

The Gun Lake Casino is an enterprise of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, also known as the Gun Lake Tribe. Open for little more than a year, it has already made impressive contributions to the state and local governments, as part of revenue-sharing agreements.

Pavey and other members of the casino staff wanted to involve the community in a strong cause, using a fresh activity. “There are a lot of 5k runs that are popular,” he said. “We just wanted to do something different and unique.” The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is especially appealing, he said, because for every dollar they acquire, 82 cents goes toward childhood cancer research.

The National Cancer Institute lists cancer as the leading cause of death by disease among United States children 1 to 14 years of age. While the Indian Health Service (IHS) doesn’t track pediatric cancer rates, cancer in general hits Native American and Alaska Native people at a rate nearly equal to that of non-Natives. IHS reports that cervical cancer rates are higher among Native people, but breast cancer and other cancerous tumors, grouped under the term “malignant neoplasm,” occur less often.

A 2008 American Cancer Society study found the same general trend for young adults in Indian country, ages 20 to 44. That study revealed that cancer rates between 1999 and 2004 were “lower but varied for selected cancers and across IHS regions.”

There are at least two local children benefitting from St. Baldrick’s, Pavey said—one in Grand Rapids, Michigan and another in Hudsonville, Michigan. Neither of those kids are tribal members, but Pavey pointed out that cancer affects people of any age, sex or race.

“While it is a serious cause,” Pavey said, “we’re going to make the best of the event. We’ll shave mullets and mohawks. We have a few people who have goatees, moustaches and beards who haven’t gotten funds to shave them yet; we’ll raise funds for that the day of the event.”

A week before the shaving, fund-raising was strong and the event was on track to meet its $25,000 goal.

“We’re at over $10,000 right now,” he said. “We keep getting more and more in every hour.” Besides pledges for all the bare new ’dos, people have been buying paper pledges and signing their names to shamrock-shaped certificates that line the walls in the casino gift shop and rewards center. “Every wall space is pretty much covered with them,” Pavey said. On the day of the event, the casino also donated a portion of proceeds from food and beverage sales.

Pavey himself is very much a part of the event. He sounded nearly giddy when he spoke of his own plans for the March 15 shave-down.

“I’m shaving my head, and I’ve put out a challenge to my friends that if they lay down the money, I’ll be shaving my head and my beard,” he said. “I’m going to look ridiculous. I’ve never had a shaved head.”

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comEndangered California Condor Chick Hatches, Seeks Chumash Language Name - ICTMN.com.

March 30, 2012

Gun Lake Gaming Authority’s Credit Rating Bumped Up

Upgrade Comes as Parties Prepare “Patchak Case” for Supreme Court

Just a year after the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians opened the Gun Lake Casino, the country’s top financial ratings services have boosted the Gun Lake Tribal Gaming Authority’s credit ratings. The upgrades were announced as parties in the controversial “Patchak case” prepare for oral arguments in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on April 24. Indian law experts say the case us crucially important to Indian country because it challenges the Interior Secretary’s authority to take land into trust and threatens the federal government’s sovereign immunity from lawsuits regarding Indian lands and the status of those trust lands.

The Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band, also known as the Gun Lake Tribe, opened its casino in February 2011. On February 29, 2012, Standard and Poors (S&P) announced it had raised the Gun Lake Gaming Authority’s credit rating from B to B+. “U.S. casino operator Gun Lake Tribal Gaming Authority (the Authority) continues to report strong operating results since we revised our rating outlook to positive from stable in August 2011,” S&P said in a press release. The company said it raised the Authority’s issue-level rating on its senior secured term loan to ‘B+’ from ‘B.‘ “ The is $165 million the tribe received in permanent financing through the investment banking and securities firm Goldman Sachs in mid-2010 to complete the construction of the casino. The tribe had broken ground for the casino at its 147-acre reservation in September 2009, but construction slowed when the economy made it difficult to find permanent financing for the project.

The S&P announcement explained that the upgrade “reflects the Authority’s strong operating performance and our expectation that credit measure will remain strong for the rating.” By the end of November 2011, the Gun Lake Tribe had contributed more than $10.3 million from its gaming profits to the state of Michigan and local governments in line with its tribal-state gaming compact.

Credit ratings provide an opinion by a financial rating service on the relative ability of an entity to meet financial commitments, that is, to pay back loans and interest, pay out insurance claims or dividends to stockholders or any other financial obligation that may arise – and avoid default. The ratings range in descending order from the categories “AAA” to “D”  to describe how investment-worthy – or not – an entity is.

Three weeks after S&P upgraded the Gaming Authority’s ratings on March 21, Moody’s Investors Service announced it has placed Gun Lake Tribal Gaming Authority’s B3 (BBB) Corporate Family Rating, Probability of Default Rating and first lien senior secured term loan rating on review for possible upgrade. “Moody’s review for possible upgrade considers that in the 12 months that the Gun Lake Casino been open, it has performed well. The casino has so far generated revenue, earnings and margins well above Moody’s initial expectations. Since opening in February 2011, Gun Lake has also repaid approximately $38 million of debt,” a measure that  could support a one-notch upgrade of Gun Lake’s Corporate Family Rating, Moody’s said in a press release.

The upgrades were welcomed by tribal officials. “Gun Lake Casino’s success is directly attributed to the people involved in our 10-year effort to open its doors,” said John Shagonaby, CEO of Gun Lake Tribal Gaming Authority. “That starts with support of tribal citizens and dedication of Tribal Council and staff members. We now have a great management team behind the day-to-day operations. The casino currently employs more than 800 people. The financial performance has exceeded our expectations and we look forward to continuing this economic growth to serve our guests and local community.”

Both S&P and Moody’s took the upcoming Patchak case into consideration, among other factors, in upgrading and reviewing the Gaming Authority’s financial standing. “[W]e continue to monitor the pending litigation challenging the authority of the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to acquire the casino land into trust for the Tribe. The plaintiff alleges that the Tribe did not qualify to have land taken into trust under the Indian Reorganization Act. The rating does not incorporate any implications from an adverse outcome to the trial, which we view as unlikely, over the intermediate term,” S&P said.

Last December the high court accepted petitions from the Gun Lake Tribe and the federal government to review a ruling from the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that said David Patchak, a Michigan man, has standing to sue the Interior Department for taking into trust land where the tribe has built a casino. A district court had dismissed Patchak’s complaint saying that he lacked standing – the right to file a lawsuit – because the injury he alleged was not within the zone of interests protected by the Indian Reorganization Act. The district court also had ruled that Patchak was barred from filing the complaint by the Quiet Title Act, which says the federal government cannot be divested of title to Indian trust lands. The appeals court reversed and remanded the case back to the district court. In its ruling, the appeals court expanded the previous criteria for standing by granting Patchak prudential standing. Its decision was a departure from rulings in similar cases by four other circuit courts.

Moody’s said its decision to place Gun Lake’s ratings on review for possible upgrade “considers that if the Supreme Court reverses the ruling made by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate the standing of the individual who brought the lawsuit that questions whether the federal government improperly took land into trust for the Gun Lake Tribe to build a casino, it is Moody’s understanding that Gun Lake’s right to operate Class III gaming can no longer be contested.”

Matthew Fletcher, Professor of Law & Director of the Indigenous Law & Policy Center at Michigan State University College of Law, told Legal News that the case is impossible to predict. “Statistically speaking, the court reverses more than two thirds of the cases it reviews. It typically grants cert with an eye toward reversal. Moreover, the federal government, as the ultimate repeat player before the Supreme Court, rarely loses. So those statistics weigh in favor of the government and the tribe,” Fletcher said. “Indian law is different, though, and if the court sees this as a case involving nothing more than tribal interests, the statistics swing back dramatically the other way. Tribal interests prevail, even with the support of the federal government, in only a small percentage of cases, at least since the mid 1980s. I can’t predict. It’s a complete toss up.”

If the Supreme Court upholds the appeals court decision, the case will be remanded to the district court for trial, which means the case could conceivably recycle back to the Supreme Court. A decision in the Patchak case is expected by the end of the Supreme Court’s session in June.

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November 15, 2012

Gun Lake Casino Raises $36K for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The Gun Lake Casino participated in the 27th Annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month this year, raising $36,360 to support breast cancer education, research and treatment programs for thousands of women in the local community.

The Wayland, Michigan-based Gun Lake Casino, owned by the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, held a month long campaign of special promotions to raise funds for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, partnering with the Susan G. Komen Southwest and West Michigan affiliates. The funds were raised from the sale of pink ribbons sold at the Appliques Gift Shop, pink desserts purchased at Sandhill Café, with 5 percent of monthly winnings from a pink blackjack table and one-percent of all hand paid slot jackpots.

“We are thrilled at the tremendous response from our guests and team members to support these worthy organizations,” said Rob McDermott, the casino’s general manager said. “By partnering with these two affiliates, we are able to impact individuals in thirteen counties throughout western Michigan.”

The heads of the two Susan G. Komen for the Cure affiliates attended a special event at Gun Lake Casino on November 8 where they each received a check for $18,180. “It is our pleasure to work with the team at Gun Lake Casino,” Jenny Miner, executive director of the Southwest Michigan affiliate, said. “The dollars raised will further our efforts to work towards our Komen vision: a world without breast cancer. Thank you Gun Lake Casino.” Carol Perschbacher, president of the West Michigan affiliate, also thanks the casino for its efforts. “Komen West Michigan is truly grateful and honored to be a recipient of all your support and hard work during Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” Perschbacher said.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure is a national nonprofit organization of more than 120 affiliates that was  founded in 1982 by Nancy G. Brinker in honor of her sister, Susan G. Komen, who lost her battle with cancer but fought long and hard through her diagnosis, treatments and hospitalizations to figure out ways to help other women battling the disease. The organization uses a minimum of 25 percent of the net income raised by each affiliate to support its national Komen for the Cure Grant Program, which funds groundbreaking breast cancer research, meritorious awards and educational and scientific conferences around the world. The remaining 75 percent of the funds raised stays in the local community to fund breast health education, breast cancer screening and treatment projects. The Southwest Michigan affiliate was founded in 1998 and the West Michigan affiliate a year later.

A Department of Health and Human Services website on women’s health reports that breast cancer is a major cause of cancer death in American Indian and Alaska Native women. “Even though native women have lower breast cancer rates than white women, they are more likely than white women to be diagnosed at a later stage, when the cancer is more advanced and harder to treat. . . Many native women do not get breast cancer screening, even when it’s available to them. The belief that cancer can’t be beat is one reason native women might avoid screening,” the site reports. African American women have the highest rate of death from breast cancer—around 35 deaths per 100,000 population. White women have approximately 26 deaths per 100,000 population, and American Indian/Alaska Native women have around 16 deaths per 100,000 population.

It was our first time that Gun Lake Casino participated in Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Anita Varela, the tribe’s community relations manager, told Indian Country Today Media Network. “Each year we look at who to partner with [for our philanthropic efforts]. This is the first time we partnered with Susan G. Komen and by partnering with the two affiliates we’re able to reach so many more counties. Also, when we do outreach we like it to stay in our community and with Susan G. Komen, 75 percent of the funds raised stays here locally. That was important to us.”

The Gun Lake Casino opened its doors on February 10, 2011.  By June 2012, the tribe’s revenue sharing with the state and local communities exceeded $8 million.

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