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WAYLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - A federal appeals court on Friday revived a lawsuit challenging a new casino in southwestern Michigan on the same day that the American Indian tribe planned to announce the opening date for gambling.
Casino foe David Patchak of Wayland Township can challenge how the federal government placed the land in trust for the Gun Lake Tribe of Pottawatomi Indians, the court said.
"If the casino opens, it may not stay that way for very long," said Patchak's lawyer, John Bursch.
The tribe, known as the Gun Lake Band, does not plan to delay the afternoon announcement or the opening in Allegan County's Wayland Township, 20 miles south of Grand Rapids.
"The land is still in trust, and the casino will open ," spokesman James Nye said, noting the court did not rule on the merits of the lawsuit.
Patchak's lawyers have argued that the U.S. Interior Department did not have authority to put the land in trust, clearing the way for a casino, because the tribe was not federally recognized until after 1934. They believe their position is stronger after a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a similar case.
Before that decision, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., dismissed Patchak's lawsuit, saying he had no standing to sue. But the appeals court reversed that ruling and sent the case back for a fresh look.
"He alleged that the rural character of the area would be destroyed, that the value of his property would be diminished and that he would lose the enjoyment of the agricultural land surrounding the casino site," the appeals court said.
"It would be very strange to deny Patchak standing in this case," the three-judge panel said.
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