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Federal appeals court clears way for new Michigan casino 7-07

By COREY WILLIAMS
DETROIT (AP) - A federal appeals court has cleared the way for a
Michigan Indian tribe to build a new casino near Battle Creek.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday dismissed arguments in a
lawsuit blocking the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi from
starting work on the FireKeepers Casino.

The ruling said the 79-acre parcel of land in Calhoun County's Emmett
Township qualifies as the tribe's initial reservation under the 1988
Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Before the passing of that act, the
tribe owned land about 12 miles to the south, said Tom Shields, a
spokesman for the Athens-based tribe.

"Any tribe can open a casino on eligible land which is defined as
land they already own," Shields said. "Except if you are a newly
recognized tribe. So, the first piece of property you buy becomes
your trust."

The U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs took the
parcel into trust in December. When the BIA takes a tribe's land into
trust, it becomes sovereign reservation land, a federal requirement
for Indian casino development.

The 800-member Huron Band signed a compact in 1998 with the state
that allows it to open a casino.

An opposition group, Citizens Exposing Truth About Casinos, used its
final appeal to challenge the tribe's ability to claim the Emmett
Township parcel as an initial reservation since it already owned land
elsewhere.

"We're disappointed in the decision. We have to weigh our options,"
Dan Ettinger, a lawyer representing the group, said Tuesday.

The tribe plans to break ground this fall on the $270 million casino
and have it completed by 2008. The 226,000-square-foot facility is
expected to create about 2,500 jobs.

"The building process alone will support more than 700 construction
jobs," Huron Band Tribal chair Laura W. Spurr said in a statement.

Michigan has 20 casinos, including 17 run by American Indian tribes.
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