It is a surprise ruling considering the casino is now open. The case could have a broader impact on efforts by other tribes to build casinos.
David Patchak alleged the casino would divert medical resources from residents, increase crime and contribute to air, noise and water pollution. The suit says the casino would destroy the area’s rural character, diminish property values and sully the local scenery.
One could argue a similar impact from almost every casino in the country.
But the difference in this case is that the Indian tribe that owns the casino was not recognized when the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 was passed. Patchak sued to stop the opening of a casino by the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, also known as the Gun Lake Tribe, located 20 miles south of Grand Rapids, Mich. He challenged how the government placed the land in trust for the tribe, saying that the move was illegal since the tribe had not been recognized by the government in 1934.
The Supreme Court ruling means Patchak’s suit can move forward in the lower courts. That likely means several more years of litigation and costly legal fees before a final ruling is reached.