The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians announced Monday it will appeal the ruling of an $89 million decision made against the tribe this month regarding its failure to construct casinos in Detroit and Lansing.
The tribe made the announcement in a four-paragraph statement on its website and also has retained a new law firm for the appeals process. It will be represented by Daniel V. Barnett of Grewal Law PLLC after terminating its relationship with the Patterson Law Firm.
“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.”
In a Jan. 3 ruling, an Ingham County Circuit Court judge ordered the Kewadin Casinos Gaming Authority to pay nearly $89 million to a group of investors, citing breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation by the authority. The total in damages includes $8.8 million made in initial investments and $75 million in lost revenue from neither venue launching to conduct gaming at either a temporary or permanent venue.
One casino was proposed to be built near the Detroit Metro Airport in Huron and the other was to be constructed in downtown Lansing. Approximately $60 million from Judge Joyce Draganchuk’s ruling was connected to the Huron location, with the balance to the Lansing venue. The biggest obstacle to the construction was the tribe’s inability to get the U.S. Department of the Interior to put the land for the proposed sites into a trust, a legal requirement to build off-reservation casinos.
The Kewadin Casinos Gaming Authority oversees five gaming locations in the Upper Peninsula with more than 2,000 Class III gaming machines, according to the 2021 annual tribal gaming report released by the Michigan Gaming Control Board. The Sault Ste. Marie tribe also operates internet casino gaming and online sports wagering in Michigan via a partnership with WynnBET.
In 2022, the tribe generated close to $48.8 million in internet casino revenue and an additional $900,000 in online sports wagering operator revenue in the 11 months through November.