HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveNewslettersVolume 18Issue 13Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Vote to Approve Lansing Casino

On Thursday, May 3, 2012, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians (“Tribe”) announced that the members of the Tribe voted in favor of the Tribe’s intention to move forward with plans to establish a tribal casino in downtown Lansing.

On March 20, 2012, the Tribe announced its plans to circulate ballots among its members regarding a vote on the Lansing project, which were provided to registered tribal members on April 13, 2012. The referendum, initiated by a petition signed by 106 tribal members, asked members for approval of Tribal Resolution 2012-11, a resolution approved by the Tribal board of directors that authorizes the Tribe to move forward with purchasing property, to enter into revenue sharing agreements, to make tribal distributions, and other items related to the proposed plan to open a casino in Lansing.

According to a press release from the Tribe, the final vote was 3,947 for and 2,311 against the referendum. The Tribe has already received approvals from the Lansing City Council to move forward with a land purchase agreement for a parcel near the existing Lansing Center in downtown. In the press release, Tribal Chairman Joe Eitrem stated that “[i]f we succeed in opening a casino in Lansing, it will provide a new source of funds desperately needed to fully fund and restore membership programs that have been cut, to replenish our Self Sufficiency Fund, to pay down our debt, and to bring more services to members.”

The Tribe plans to build a 125,000 square-foot gaming facility in downtown Lansing that would house an estimated 3,000 slot machines and 48 table games. The Tribe has estimated that the project would create 700 construction jobs and 1,500 full-time positions once the casino is opened.

The Tribe, however, must now seek approval from the federal government in order to move forward with the project. The Tribe must file the necessary documentation and applications for an off-reservation gaming expansion with the Department of the Interior. The Secretary of the Interior would then need to take the land in downtown Lansing into trust for the benefit of the tribe after determining that the Tribe would be eligible to open a casino at the location.

The City of Lansing and the Tribe have stated that their legal teams have reviewed the proposed plan and found that it is consistent with federal and state legal provisions. However, on February 7, 2012, Governor Snyder and state Attorney General Bill Schuette issued a joint letter stating their opposition to the project, in part, because the Governor has taken the position that the project would conflict with other tribal compacts in the state, as well as with federal law.


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