WAYLAND — Michigan Gambling Opposition (MichGO) is expected to reveal this morning that it will file a lawsuit against the federal government in an effort to stop an American Indian tribe from opening a gaming operation on the former Ampro factory site in Wayland Township.
The suit will be filed today in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., and will challenge action the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) took last month when it approved a proposal to put the land for the casino into trust.
At issue is whether the government followed its own regulations and whether a federal agency exceeded its authority. MichGO contends the government didn’t and the agency did.
The lawsuit is based on four claims, the strongest of which is that the government failed to comply with requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. MichGO argues the law requires that an inclusive environmental study must be done on the possible effects a casino could have on an area and claims that the environmental impact study submitted by the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi, also known as the Gun Lake Tribe, was inadequate and outdated.
“It is absurd for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to suggest that the proposed casino would have no significant impact on the rural agricultural community,” said Todd Boorsma, chair of MichGO, a grassroots organization made up of area residents.
“The traffic, congestion, noise pollution, air pollution, adverse land-use impacts, displacement of homeowners, plus the significant social costs of gambling-related ills like bankruptcies, crime, abuse, neglect, etc., must all be reviewed in a comprehensive, regional environmental impact study,” added Boorsma.
The press conference is set to take place this morning at 11 a.m. at the Hennison Farm on M-59, located about 100 yards from the proposed casino site. The farm, owned by Phil Hennison, is being used as the location for the announcement because MichGO believes it will be one of the sites that will suffer negative environmental consequences should a gaming operation open.
The lawsuit also claims that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act prohibits gambling on lands placed into trust after 1988; that the BIA acts as a lawmaking body when it places lands into trust — action that should only be reserved for Congress; and that the federal government does not have the authority to issue a Class III gaming license for the property until the state enters into a valid compact with the tribe.
“We’re here to win this and we think we can. Every day that passes without a casino open at this site is another victory for us,” said Bob Jonker, lead attorney for the MichGO suit and a partner at Warner Norcross & Judd.
“If the court accepts our argument, and we think it should, the Gun Lake Tribe will never be able to open the gambling casino they are proposing,” said Jonker, who will reveal details of the lawsuit this morning.
The BIA published its notice of intent to put the land proposed for the casino into trust on May 13, and interested parties were given 30 days to respond to that notice.
The Gun Lake Tribe wants to build a 193,500-square-foot casino on the Ampro property, which it said would create 4,300 new jobs in Allegan County. The Allegan County Chamber of Commerce has supported the tribe’s efforts to bring a casino to Wayland Township.