HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveNewslettersVolume 18Issue 34City of Lansing Transfers Land for Proposed Casino Project

On November 1, 2012, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, Sault Tribe Chairperson Aaron Payment, and investor Bob Liggett signed documents to finalize the transfer of city-owned land to the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians (Tribe) to further efforts to bring a $245 million casino to the downtown district.  Mr. Liggett is the main investor in the project and owns a majority of Lansing Future Development, LLC, the Sault Tribe’s partner in the project.

The Tribe plans to build a 125,000 square-foot gaming facility in downtown Lansing that is proposed to house an estimated 3,000 slot machines and 48 table games. The project has been approved by the Lansing City Council, the Sault Tribe Board of Directors, and the Sault Tribe membership in a tribal referendum held earlier this year.

According to a joint media release from the proponents of the casino, the agreement between the city and Tribe allows the Tribe to close on two other parcels of land in the future at a price previously agreed upon, assuming all necessary approvals for the project are secured.

“I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to finalize the transfer of land to the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, our partner in this game-changing project,” Mayor Bernero stated. “While we still have a long way to go, today’s milestone gets us one step closer to building a project that will help boost the economic revitalization of Michigan’s capital city and transform our downtown into a major entertainment destination. Our eyes are on the prize-this project will create thousands of good jobs, attract tens of thousands of tourists to the region, and generate enough revenue to allow our city to send all of our school district graduates to college through the Lansing Promise.”

Significantly, on Friday, September 7, 2012, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed suit to prevent the Tribe from moving forward with the casino plans. The lawsuit follows a letter issued in May of this year by Schuette to the federal government expressing the state’s concerns.  A scheduling conference for the suit is scheduled to take place on December 5, 2012, before District Court Judge Robert J. Jonker.

The state has alleged that the Tribe would violate provisions of its gaming compact with the state, that the Tribe is violating the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the Michigan Gaming and Revenue Act, and that the operation of the facility would constitute a “nuisance” under Michigan law. Specifically, the Complaint alleges that the Tribe would be violating the revenue sharing portions of its gaming compact with the state. The suit also alleges a violation of federal law because the land in question has not been properly deemed eligible for casino gaming use by the federal government.

John Wernet, general counsel for the Tribe, said that the tribe is confident that their legal standing will hold up in court.

The Tribe, together with Lansing Mayor Virg Benero, announced plans to develop a downtown casino in January of this year. The project, tentatively named Lansing Kewadin Casino, would be located next to the Lansing Center.

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

 

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