Lansing casino plan critic wins tribal chairmanship election

Jun 29, 2012

A critic of part of the plan to build a casino in downtown Lansing has just been elected to lead one of the groups involved in the project. 

Earlier this year, Aaron Payment led an unsuccessful referendum campaign that challenged the way the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians would divide up revenues from the planned Lansing casino.   

But this week, members of the tribe elected Payment their new tribal chairman.

He previously served one term as the tribal chairman. Four other challengers won seats on tribal board in Thursday’s election. The results won’t be official until next month. 

A tribal spokeswoman says Payment’s election will not affect plans for the proposed $245 million casino project.

The casino has already received needed support from the local level. And the tribe is expected to soon ask the federal government to take land surrounding Lansing’s convention center into trust. The land must be taken into trust by the federal government before the tribe can begin work on the casino.

The casino project is expected to face several legal challenges.

The Lansing casino is opposed by Gov. Rick Snyder and other Native American tribes that operate casinos within driving distance of the state capitol.

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero issued a statement congratulating Payment on his election:

"We look forward to building on our strong partnership as we move forward to bring the Lansing Kewadin casino project to a successful conclusion.   We also wish to express our sincere gratitude to outgoing Chairman Joe Eitrem for his honorable leadership and for working with us in good faith to forge a long-term friendship between Lansing and the Sault Tribe based on mutual respect and trust."