Legal Issues Involved in Opening a Casino

There are currently two Michigan casinos operating: The Bellagio and the Renaissance. The other is the Portage; neither of which has been mentioned as a potential candidate for closure. However, both of them have faced lawsuits over the past few years for real estate closings, lack of licenses, and other related issues. In addition to those two topics, there are several other issues that casino owners and operators need to address in order to remain in operation.


First, does the city of Detroit have the authority to close down the casinos? The answer to this question varies from place to place. In Detroit, for example, the local law requires the mayor to sign off on any action taken to close the casino. Similarly, in Marquette, the City of Marquette is able to force the closing of the casino due to a decades-old lawsuit brought against it. This is a relatively unusual case; typically, if a town’s legal authority tells a casino owner to keep their doors closed, that authority will likely never be involved in an action to close the facility down again.

The same goes for Macomb County, which includes Oakland and Farmington Hills. In fact, this particular county actually authorized by its board of commissioners to take control of the casino after the owners and operator defaulted on debt payments. While the board did not have the authority to immediately close down the casino, it was able to take control of it via a lawsuit. (This is rather peculiar, because states rarely have the authority to immediately close down a casino.) Of course, this legal precedent clearly applies in Michigan as well.

Another issue that arises when you examine the legal precedents surrounding the Michigan casinos is the relative lack of prior restraint. This phrase refers to the ability of a court to temporarily stop a particular activity in order to let the legal system determines whether it is in the public interest to continue it. A classic example of this would be a hotel that refused to allow a blind person into a particular casino. Such actions would be considered “prior restraint.” But the courts rarely ever require such immediate actions against businesses in most industries.

At the same time, most states do not permit owners to simply change the license to another jurisdiction without going through the legal process required by Michigan. There are a few isolated circumstances where such actions might be appropriate. If a casino is attempting to relocate to a state where it has no real tax base, such action might be taken to mitigate the negative impact on the casino’s taxes. However, in Michigan, there are certain gaming device violations that result in immediate closure of the casino and all of its related properties. Such violations usually cannot be altered or changed without a court order.

As noted above, Michigan is a very large state. And the burdens placed on casino operators by Michigan law (in addition to those imposed by other states) can be quite severe. Take, for example, the fact that Michigan requires owners to obtain a casino license before they can start operating a casino. Licenses must be renewed every two years, which means that a business that gets one could be shuttered immediately if it cannot comply with the requirements of the law.

The state of Michigan has been able to successfully prevent many casino operators from violating the rights of the people through litigation. However, there is still a long list of such cases. Owners who are not paying the appropriate taxes for their casino operations can be subject to state foreclosure, for example. And casino operators who are involved in criminal activity – such as gambling, laundering of stolen casino funds, or any other crimes – may be subjected to jail time if found guilty. And even when owners are ultimately found to be within the laws of the state, they may still be personally liable for civil damages that stem from their operation of the casino.

In short, it is imperative that anyone considering opening a casino in Michigan realize the legal liabilities that he or she will be facing. And legal assistance should be sought even after a casino has been opened and begins operation. A lawyer should always be consulted before and during operations to ensure that everything is in order and to maximize the chances of winning on the lottery as well as other casino games.