Tuesday, January 11, 2005

High court won't hear casino lawsuit appeal Brought by Red Cliff, LCO, Mole Lake tribesThe Daily PressLast

Updated: Tuesday, January 11th, 2005 10:02:51 AMBy JR ROSS Associated Press Writer MADISON — The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal Monday from three American Indian tribes seeking to challenge the governor’s ability to block them from acquiring a western Wisconsin dog track and turning it into an off-reservation casino. The decision lets stand an appeals court ruling that nixed the deal and upheld the power of governors to approve off-reservation casinos under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The Red Cliff, Lac Courte Oreilles and Mole Lake Chippewa bands filed suit to challenge that authority after then-Gov. Scott McCallum refused to sign off on a project in 2001 to turn the financially troubled St. Croix Meadows greyhound racing track into a casino with about 1,500 slot machines. Under federal law, the U.S. interior secretary can approve off-reservation gambling if it is in the tribe’s best interest, but state governors also must agree. McCallum refused, saying he opposed any expansion of gaming in Wisconsin beyond existing casinos. The U.S. Supreme Court did not say why it declined to hear the case. Attorney Robert Friebert, who represented the tribes, was out of the office Monday and did not return calls from The Associated Press. The three tribes either did not return calls or declined comment. Melanie Fonder, a spokeswoman for Gov. Jim Doyle, said the governor was pleased the Supreme Court upheld his authority to have a say over off-reservation casinos. She said the governor would review any efforts by the tribes to resurrect the deal if it reached his desk — a process that could take years. Hudson Mayor Jack Breault called the decision good news for the area about 20 miles east of the Twin Cities, one of the fastest growing in the state. The City Council voted nine years ago to oppose the project, and Breault said the city of 10,240 couldn’t handle the expected 1.6 million visitors a year the casino was expected to attract. ‘‘We just can’t handle that from a traffic standpoint,’’ Breault said. The three tribes have spent more than a decade trying to turn the dog track into a casino, an effort marked by a series of court challenges and controversy. The tribes announced a deal in 1994 with the city of Hudson and St. Croix County to pay them for various services if the project came to fruition. But the City Council later voted to voice its opposition, part of the reason why the U.S. Interior Department initially turned down the application. The three tribes then claimed they were turned down because of pressure from the Clinton administration after rival tribes that opposed the project promised campaign contributions to the Democratic Party. An independent counsel later found there was insufficient evidence to seek criminal indictments against former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt or anyone else involved in the decision. Still, the Interior Department agreed to reconsider. In the mean time, the tribe filed a $175 million lawsuit against the city for opposing the project. The two sides settled that dispute after the city agreed to take no position as the Interior Department reconsidered the project, which it approved. The tribes then went to court after McCallum refused to go along with the project. The tribes contend the provision of the federal Indian gaming law that requires the governor to approve the acquisition of off-reservation land for gaming purposes gives the governor too much power and is contrary to the federal government’s trust responsibilities to the tribes. But the 7th District Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled last year the provision does not transfer control of the execution of federal law to state governors, as the tribes argued. ‘‘The tribes’ concern is not so much the unconstrained discretion that Congress permitted the governors of the 50 states to exercise under (federal Indian gaming law), but that Congress had delegated any power to the governors at all,’’ the appeals court said. ——— On the Net: U.S. Supreme Court: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/

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