Lansing business and union leaders came out to a public hearing last night to support a proposed casino project in the city’s downtown.
The Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians wants to build a $245 million dollar casino next to the city's downtown convention center.
Two previous community forums drew a parade of casino critics who warned gambling will increase crime and cause other problems in the capitol city. Last night, it was the supporters' turn to make their case.
Lansing teacher Kristen Small says her students need the college scholarship fund that the proposed casino would contribute to.
"I can guarantee you the kids don’t care where the funding comes from as long as it comes," Small told the Lansing city council, before a large crowd of casino supporters and opponents.
Local UAW official Jake Jacobson says the casino project means much needed jobs for Lansing.
“500 construction jobs means 500 families off social assistance. A thousand other jobs..,permanent jobs…that those people will leave social assistance and pay taxes in our community," Jacobson told the city council.
Others touted the casino’s potential to bring tourists to Lansing.
Mayor Virg Bernero says he did ask some of the casino supporters to show up for last night’s public hearing.
"I believe they are the 'silent majority'" says Bernero, "In general, with any issue, you generally get the opposition that shows up (at public hearings). People are more excited about saying 'no' than saying 'yes'"
Next week, the Lansing city council is scheduled to vote on the several aspects of the casino project.
Bill Martines is the managing director of Lansing Future LLC, the main developer of the casino project. He's hopeful the city council will vote for the project and keep it on schedule.
"Their decision definitely affects us," says Martines, "But that's really up to the city council."
Casino opponents say they will continue to organize and collect signatures in hopes of convincing the Lansing city council, if not to vote down the project, delay a decision until Lansing residents can vote in a referendum.