Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

An Upper Peninsula Indian tribe has taken a major step toward building a casino in Lansing.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Tuesday formally asked the U.S. Department of the Interior to take land surrounding Lansing’s downtown convention center into trust.

The tribe bought the land for a $245 million casino. But before the casino can be built, the federal government must first take the land into trust.

Tribal officials say the Interior Department could act on the request in a few weeks.

Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

As expected, Michigan’s attorney general has dropped an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court asking the court to block a Lansing casino project.

But the legal fight is far from finished.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the state of Michigan could not sue the Bay Mills tribe to block it from operating a casino located off its reservation. The court ruled that the tribe has sovereign immunity.

The state was using the same legal strategy in an appeal in a case involving a proposed Lansing casino.

Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

A federal appeals court has lifted an injunction that was standing in the way of a casino in downtown Lansing.

The Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians wants to build a casino next to Lansing’s convention center.

Michigan’s Attorney General asked for and got a federal court to prevent the tribe from moving ahead with its plans. The attorney general says the tribe’s casino would violate agreements between the state and Michigan’s Native American tribes.

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Casinos operated by six Native American tribes in Michigan will continue to operate even though the gaming compacts that allow them expire this weekend.    That will gives the state and the tribes more time to negotiate new compacts.

The agreements were originally made 20 years ago.

John Wernet is the legal counsel for the Sault Sainte Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.   He says casinos are a critical source of revenue for the tribes.

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A big deadline looms on November 30th that may affect the state’s casino industry.

Since 1993, six Native American tribes (The Bay Mills Indian Community, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, the Hannahville Indian Community, the Lac Vieux Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa) have had deals in place with the state of Michigan to operate gambling facilities. The tribes operate 13 casinos.

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The state of Michigan is trying to negotiate a new agreement with six Native American tribes that could mean a lot of money for the state.

Since 1993, the state of Michigan has had an agreement with the tribes (Saginaw Chippewa, Grand Traverse, Lau Vieux Desert, Sault Ste Marie, Bay Mills and Hannahville) concerning gambling revenues.   That gaming compact is up for its regular review this year.  

Governor Snyder wants to renegotiate the compact.  A spokesman for the governor declined to say what’s being discussed.  

Aaron Payment is the chairman of the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, which operates five casinos in the U.P.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says he wants four more years in office. He formally announced his campaign today. 

“I’m telling you folks … Lansing is on the verge,” the partisan crowd groaned, and then laughed, as Virg Bernero joked at his campaign kickoff.

Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

Backers of a proposed casino in downtown Lansing are asking a federal appeals court to toss out a legal ruling that threatens to bring their plans to a halt. 

Last month a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians’ plans to build a $245 million casino in downtown Lansing.

Michigan’s attorney general sought the injunction claiming the tribe’s plans violated federal law and a state gambling compact.    

Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

Plans for a casino in downtown Lansing are in jeopardy this evening.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians wants to build a $245 million casino next to Lansing’s convention center.  However, before the tribe could build the casino, the U.S. Department of the Interior would have to agree to take the land for the casino into trust.

But Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a lawsuit trying to block the tribe's trust request.

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The group trying to reverse Michigan’s new law that allows a wolf-hunting season in the Upper Peninsula unveiled its campaign coalition today.

It includes the Humane Society and other animal rights groups, as well as Michigan’s American Indian tribes. The coalition is trying to put a referendum on the 2014 ballot.

Aaron Payment is the chair of the Sault Sainte Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. He said a wolf hunt would be an affront to tribal culture.

“In our tradition, in our culture, we believe that the wolf is our brother. And, I don’t mean this to sound very mystical, but in our long-standing tradition, we believe that what happens to the wolf, eventually happens to us,” said Payment.

Payment said a wolf hunt could also violate a 2007 agreement between Indian tribes and the state of Michigan.

Supporters of the law say state wildlife officials should be allowed to use limited hunting as a wolf-management tool. The gray wolf was removed from the endangered species list in Michigan last year.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A federal judge in Grand Rapids will hear arguments Wednesday in a case that may determine if Lansing will get a downtown casino.

A year ago, the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians announced plans to build a casino that would wrap around Lansing’s downtown convention center.   The plan included the construction of a temporary casino along Michigan Ave.  

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Upper Peninsula Native American Tribe says a lawsuit trying to prevent it from building a casino in Lansing is “utterly without merit”.

Michigan’s Attorney General filed a lawsuit in September challenging the right of the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians to build a casino in downtown Lansing.

Attorney General Bill Schuette says the casino project would violate federal law, as well as a gaming compact with the state.

But in its response to the state’s lawsuit this week, the tribe describes the state’s case as “meritless”.

A deadline is looming for a proposed downtown Lansing casino.

The proposed $245 million casino project involves a complicated business and land deal between the city of Lansing, private developers and an indian tribe from the Upper Peninsula. 

So complicated those involved were not able to reach an agreement on the various aspects of the project by an August deadline.   So they gave themselves an extension until November 1st.

But with two weeks before the extended deadline there’s still no final agreement.

Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

Michigan’s Attorney General has filed a lawsuit to block plans for a casino in Lansing.

The Sault Sainte Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians announced plans in January to build a $245 million casino next to Lansing’s convention center.

Attorney General Bill Schuette claims the casino project violates federal law and a gaming compact with the state.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Plans for a casino in downtown Lansing are taking longer to pull together than developers had originally planned.

Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

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. 

A majority of Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians members have voted in favor of their tribe building a casino in downtown Lansing.

The vote clears the way for what is sure to be bigger challenges to the casino project.  

Tribal leaders had predicted the outcome of the referendum from the start.    The voting started last month when the tribe mailed ballots to more than 14 thousand tribal members.

In the end, more than 39 hundred Sault Ste Marie tribe members voted in favor of the Lansing casino project.    23 hundred members voted against it.

Roger Martin is the tribe’s spokesman.    He says the next phase of the project will involve paperwork.

“The hope is the have the land purchase completed and the application to take the land into trust by the Department of the Interior by Summer,” says Martin.

The federal government must agree to take the land into trust for the tribe so it can be used for gaming. 

Other tribes that operate casinos near Lansing, as well as Governor Snyder,  oppose a casino in the capital city.  Legal challenges to the project are expected.

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero issued a statement thanking the tribe for its affirmative vote.

"I am more convinced than ever that this is the right project at the right time with the right partners.  The Lansing Kewadin casino will create thousands of good jobs, fully-fund college scholarships for Lansing public school children, and generate hundreds of millions in new economic activity for the Lansing region." Bernero said in his statement."

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Voting wraps up this week in a referendum that may decide if plans for a casino in downtown Lansing can move forward.

Ballots were mailed to 14 thousand members of the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians earlier this month.

The basic question is should the tribe move ahead with plans to build a $245 million casino adjacent to Lansing’s downtown convention center.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Ballots are being mailed this week to more than 14 thousand members of the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.   The vote may decide if the tribe will go ahead with plans to build a casino in downtown Lansing.

The proposed casino is controversial, not just among those who generally oppose any effort to expand gambling in Michigan, but also among some Sault Ste Marie tribe members.

The tribe already operates five casinos in the Upper Peninsula.  But some tribe members don’t like the way revenue from a Lansing casino would be divided.

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.

The Lansing city council has several items dealing with the casino project on its agenda tonight.

All the items must pass for the $245 million project to move forward.

City council president Brian Jeffries last week questioned if the city is giving up too much in the deal with the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and a group of local investors.

The proposal has drawn opposition from critics of casino gambling., other tribes that operate casinos, as well as the governor and state attorney general. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

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. 

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

 A public hearing tonight in Lansing is expected to draw a large crowd of opponents to a casino in in the city’s downtown.

The Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians wants to build a new casino next to Lansing’s downtown convention center.

Supporters say the casino would bring much needed jobs to the capitol city, boost the city’s convention business and provide funding for a college scholarship program for Lansing school children.

But opponents say the costs are too high.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Some Lansing city council members seem inclined to delay a vote on a proposed casino project.

The Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians wants to build a casino next to Lansing’s downtown convention center.

The city council is scheduled to vote on the proposal this month.  But the tribe is scheduling a referendum among its members in 60 days.    That has some council members questioning why they have to vote now. 

Tribal Chairman Joe Eitrem says he’s not worried about a possible delay in the city council’s vote. 

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

 Members of an Upper Peninsula Native American tribe may vote in the next few months on a proposal to build a casino in Lansing.

 The vote could upend the controversial casino project in Michigan’s capitol city.

 The leaders of the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians announced their plans to build a $245 million  casino in downtown Lansing in January.

The proposal immediately drew opposition from the governor, state attorney general and other Native American tribes that already operate casinos within easy driving distance of Lansing.

(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.

The proposed Lansing casino project has picked up a key endorsement. But there is some controversy of about the decision by a city economic development agency.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians wants to build a new $245 million casino in downtown Lansing.  One small parcel of land critical to the project is owned by the Lansing Economic Development Corporation.   The LEDC has given its approval to the deal, which will see the group’s parcel turned into a temporary casino while construction on the main casino proceeds.

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

Lansing city council members are expressing growing frustration at not getting the information they want about a proposed Indian casino project.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians wants to build a $245 million casino in the capitol city.   The casino would be built adjacent to the city's downtown convention center. The city council’s approval of the deal is necessary before the tribe can ask the federal government to place the land in trust.

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Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and state Attorney General Bill Schuette have told a northern Michigan Indian tribe they will do whatever is necessary to stop a casino from being built in downtown Lansing.

The proposed casino would go up just a few blocks from the state Capitol.

The Sault Sainte Marie Tribe of Chippewas already operates five casinos in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The tribe has proposed a new casino in downtown Lansing on a parcel that is not currently considered tribal property.

The governor and the attorney general say that means the land cannot be used for a tribal casino.

“This project just cannot fly the way the law is set up currently,” said John Sellek a spokesman for the attorney general.

“The way they are trying to do it just will not work. If they want to try to get the law changed, that’s something they could do, but, otherwise we would be forced to go to court because the way they want to do this is just plain illegal,” said Sellek.

Tribal spokesman Roger Martin says the legal argument is a new one, but he says the project complies with the law.

“It’s pretty clear. We have the right to take this land into trust,” said Martin. “We intend to vigorously pursue what we believe is our right for this project. We’re very confident in the legal theory that we have.”

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero also backs the project.

Bernero says he “respectfully disagrees” with Governor Snyder, his adversary in the 2010 race for governor.

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

The Lansing city council has plenty of questions about a plan that could bring a quarter billion dollar casino project to downtown.   The council was briefed on the legal agreement Monday.    

An Upper Peninsula tribe and a developer have already signed off on a deal that outlines revenue sharing,  property transfers and other economic development issues.

But councilwoman Carol Wood says there are several issues that aren’t spelled out in the lengthy agreement.

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