Plans for the Kewadin Lansing Casino in Michigan remain in limbo but the Sault St. Marie Tribe of the Chippewa Indians say there is still hope for the almost four-year-old casino proposal, according to the Lansing State Journal report.
However, in order for the tribe’s plan to come to fruition, a good many things need to go its way. One being approval of its “Mandatory Fee-to-Trust Acquisition” application filed with the U.S. Department of the Interior in June 2014. The land in Lansing includes two parcels totaling about 2.7 acres at Michigan Avenue and North Cedar Street. The parcels are situated adjacent to and near the Lansing Center, with the land being the site of a new $245 million gaming resort that was first proposed by the tribe, along with the city’s mayor, Virg Bernero, in January 2012.
Approval, however, doesn’t mean that it would be smooth sailing for the tribe, as the proposed Lansing casino would likely be the subject of multiple legal challenges from the competition, which includes the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi and Saginaw Chippewa. The latter owns and operates the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in Mt. Pleasant and the former, FireKeepers Casino Hotel in Battle Creek.
Another issue that would have to be resolved is the recent drama that involves the tribe’s board chair, Aaron Payment, who last Tuesday was stripped of his duties that include the power to negotiate, sign, and execute contracts on behalf of the tribe. Payment said that he started a petition drive in an attempt to get his delegated authority back, according to the news agency. Meanwhile, the Lansing proposal remains at a standstill and Payment said it’s not clear who within the tribe would have the authority to alter plans or sign off on the casino deal.
In September last year, U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker ruled against the state of Michigan’s suit attempting to block the Lansing tribal casino. That suit was in addition to a previously rejected claim against individual members of the board of directors of the tribe, and its attempt to gain federal approval for casino proposals including one in Huron Township south of Detroit, as well as the Lansing location. It was the state’s contention, as well as the opposing tribes’, that a trust submission under the Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act (MILCSA) would be in violation of the compact between the tribe and the state. That compact requires there be a revenue-sharing agreement with other tribes in order for land to be taken into trust for gaming purposes under the Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states cannot sue a tribe unless allowed by Congress.
Despite the issue within the tribe, the Lansing project has the support of the city, with the mayor’s executive assistant, Randy Hannan, writing in an email on Friday to the newspaper, that it remains “fully committed” to the casino project. The tribe’s lawyer John Wernet echoed that sentiment saying the tribe’s internal issues won’t affect the project if the Interior Department approves the application.
Werent told the Lansing State Journal that he hopes the application will be approved prior to President-elect Donald Trump taking over the office in January. In a one-sentence email to the news agency on Thursday, Department of Interior spokesperson Nedra Darling, wrote that the tribe’s application is “still in the review process.”
According to the tribe, the 125,000-square-foot Lansing casino would create approximately 700 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs and generate revenues for the City of Lansing that would be used to fund the Lansing Promise Scholarships.