HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveNewslettersVolume 18Issue 15Attorney General Sends Letter of Opposition Regarding Lansing Casino

Yesterday, May 17, 2012, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office released a letter addressed to the U.S. Department of the Interior Indian Affairs unit regarding the legality of a proposed $245 million casino in Lansing, Michigan.  The May 11thletter states that the proposed project could be in violation of both state and federal law, including the tribal-state compact between the state of Michigan and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians (“Sault Tribe”).

According to the May 11thletter, the “State is gravely concerned” about the consequences of allowing the proposed casino to operate in Lansing.  Specifically, the Attorney General does “not believe that by passing the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (25 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq.) and the Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act, Pub. L. No. 105-143 (MILCSA), Congress intended to provide the Sault Tribe with unfettered power to open a casino anywhere in Michigan or the United States, limited only by how much money it could accumulate in its MILCSA trust.  For this reason, we have told the Tribe and the City that we will take whatever steps are necessary to preclude the opening and operation of a casino in Lansing.”

The Sault Tribe has indicated that it 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 Sault Tribe has estimated that the project would create 700 construction jobs and 1,500 full-time positions once the casino is opened.

The Sault Tribe must seek approval from the federal government in order to move forward with the project. The Sault 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.

According to the May 11thletter, the Michigan Attorney General requests the opportunity to provide comments and other information to the Department of the Interior before a decision is made on such trust application.

On Thursday, May 3, 2012, the Sault 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.  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.

Notably, on February 7, 2012, Governor Snyder and state Attorney General Schuette issued a separate, 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.

For a copy of the May 11thletter, please click here.


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