Friday, June 06, 2008

Michigan Indian Casinos at center of liquor dispute



Patrick Devlin, a lawyer and employee of the Michigan Gaming Control Board, has sued Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox in an effort to force him to require the state's 19 tribal casinos to obtain liquor licenses.

Devlin, a former assistant attorney general, said that while American Indian tribes generally do not have to comply with state laws, he believes they must follow state liquor laws, which require establishments that sell liquor to be licensed and regulated by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

Devlin, who until Monday monitored tribal casinos for the gaming control board, has pressed state officials for four years to address his concerns that Michigan should be regulating liquor sales in the tribal casinos.
Devlin, who is now a regulation officer assigned to Detroit's three casinos, filed his suit Tuesday in Ingham County Circuit Court.

Rusty Hills, a spokesman for Cox, said Wednesday the agreements that allow tribal casinos to operate in Michigan are negotiated by the tribes and the governor's office.

"If Mr. Devlin has a beef, he should bring it to the attention of the governor's office," Hills said. "And he's not only an attorney but a former employee of the AG's office; he should know better."

Devlin said it is important that the casinos are regulated like other establishments in Michigan that sell liquor to protect against drinking by minors or the visibly intoxicated. Kathryn Tierney, attorney for the Bay Mills Indian Community, which operates two Upper Peninsula casinos, said the tribes have been regulating their casino liquor sales themselves for years.

"The tribe's law has a minimum age, 21, and prohibits serving visibility intoxicated people," Tierney said. "This is not a vacuum which only state law can fill."

"While the attorney general has zero tolerance for all kinds of conduct, he apparently has unlimited tolerance for tribal casino violations. He just gives them a free pass," Devlin said.

Contact JENNIFER DIXON at 313-223-4410 or

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