A controversial plan to build a casino in downtown Lansing cleared an important hurdle last night.
The Lansing city council gave its approval for the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians’ plan to build a casino next to the city’s convention center.
Council members who voted for the casino cited the jobs it will create and a college scholarship program for Lansing children it will fund.
Bill Martines is the head of Lansing Future LLC, the development group spearheading the casino project. He laughed when asked if this was the "easy part" of getting the casino built.
"No this wasn’t the easy part…not by any stretch…I don’t anticipate any of the parts to be easy," says Martines
The project still needs federal approval. The Sault Ste Marie Tribe is expected to formally submit its application to the federal government this summer. Since the casino would not be built on tribal land, the federal government must agree to take the land into trust. There are differing opinions as to whether federal law would permit the tribe to open a casino on the property in downtown Lansing.
The casino also faces probable lawsuits from other Native American tribes that operate casinos within easy driving distance of Lansing and the state of Michigan.
Several community forums and a public hearing drew dozens of people for and against the casino project. Supporters say a casino will bring jobs and tourism to Lansing. Opponents say a casino will bring crime and other social problems.