Lansing Mayor Still Optimistic For Tribal Casino

Although it has been over three years in the making, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan are confident plans for a $245 million casino in Lansing (l.) will see fruition. Opposing tribes do not share the same sentiment.

While the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians have seen their plans for a 5 million, 125,000-square foot casino put on hold for over three years, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is still enthusiastic for the project. The Sault Ste. Marie tribe applied with the U.S. Department of the Interior to have the site potential site taken into trust.

The waiting game has gone on for some time now, as the tribe is awaiting a decision from U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jonker. “I’m getting very encouraging signs from Washington,” Bernero said. “I have never felt more confident of our success. Don’t bet against Lansing!”

Both the Saginaw Chippewa and Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi oppose the Lansing casino, claiming the proposal violates the 1997 Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act. James Nye, a spokesman for the two tribes, said that Lansing is as close to a casino being built as it was nearly four years ago.

“It would be extraordinary for this to come to fruition,” Nye said. On the flipside, John Wernet, the Sault Ste. Marie tribe’s lawyer expects a ruling from Jonker “any day now”. According to Wernet, there is a provision in the law which allows tribal land to be held in trust if the purchase is made with interest or income from a particular tribal fund.

Plans for the casino include 3,000 slot machines, 48 table games, alongside several bars and restaurant. Bernero figures the casino to create 1,500 permanent jobs and 700 construction jobs.