Michigan can't block the opening of an off-reservation Indian casino because of a tribe's sovereign immunity, the Supreme Court has ruled.
A divided Court ruled 5-4 that the state could not block the Bay Mills Indian Community's casino about 90 miles south of its reservation. Michigan and 16 other states had urged the Court to allow the casino to be shuttered.
Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the Court that the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act only allows a state to bring lawsuits challenging casinos operating on Indian lands. But the Bay Mills casino was opened outside the tribe's reservation, Kagan said, placing it outside the law's coverage.
The 5-4 decision divided the Court, but not along traditional ideological lines.
Joining Justice Kagan was Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Kennedy, Breyer, and Sotomayor. Justice Thomas wrote the dissent, joined by Justices Scalia, Ginsburg and Alito.
Kagan noted that Michigan officials have other options for dealing with the casino, such as bringing a lawsuit against individual tribal officials or even prosecuting tribal members under criminal laws.