(courtesy of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians)

A controversial plan to build a casino in downtown Lansing goes before the public tonight.     A large turnout is expected at the first of two community meetings on the casino project.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians wants to build a $245 million casino next to Lansing’s convention center.     The tribe will ask the federal government to approve the project this summer.   

But first, the Lansing city council must vote on the development deal by the end of next month.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Officials in Lansing are expected to announce plans tomorrow to build an Indian casino in the capitol city. Opposition to the plan is already gathering.   

The press release from the mayor’s office only describes it as a ‘Major Economic Development Project’. But everyone is expecting the announcement will confirm months of rumor and speculation that one of Michigan’s Indian tribes wants to build a casino in Lansing.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians is expected to be the group behind the casino project. The plan is expected to place the casino next to Lansing’s downtown convention center.   

Even before the formal announcement, opposition is lining up to the idea of building a casino in Michigan’s capitol city.

There are two existing Indian casinos within easy driving distance of Lansing. Also, Michigan’s Attorney General is leery of expanding the number of casinos in the state. There are nearly two dozen casinos operating in Michigan today, most of owned by Native American tribes.

Media reports claim the city of Lansing is talking with a native American tribe about opening a casino in the capital city.  

Triin Q / wikipedia commons

New casinos would open in seven Michigan cities, under a measure a group hopes to get onto the ballot in 2012.

Bill Thompson is a casino expert from Las Vegas who helped draft the proposed constitutional amendment, which calls for a 19% wagering tax for the casinos. He says it would raise about $400 million in tax revenues. More than half the money would fund college scholarships and a tourism ad campaign.

Thompson says much of the rest would go to the communities that host the casinos:

"This will bring money into Saginaw, Benton Harbor – two cities that are in desperate financial situations, also Lansing, Grand Rapids – two cities that need help."

The measure also calls for casinos in Mount Clemens, Detroit and Romulus, where Alan Lambert is the mayor:

"There’s so many people out of work. In my own community there’s a lot of people out of work. So to a city like Romulus this means revenue obviously, and it means a lot of jobs."

Detroit’s three existing casinos will likely put on a vigorous fight to block the measure. And since it’s a statewide vote, opponents say it takes away residents’ rights to decide whether they want a casino in their communities.

The group failed to get a similar measure onto the 2010 ballot.

(flickr blueeyes)

Macomb County executive Mark Hackel says a privately owned casino could boost business along the county's waterfront on Lake St. Clair.  The Macomb Daily reports: Mark Hackel said he plans to reach out to local communities to see who might be interested.