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Monday, March 18,2013

Is a casino coming to Lansing?

Casino negotiations underway, sources say

by City Pulse Staff
Photo courtesy of Ted O'Dell/Lansing Jobs Coalition
Friday, Sept. 30 — The city of Lansing is negotiating with the Sault Ste. Marie
Tribe of Chippewa Indians for a downtown casino to be built behind the Lansing
Center, Ted O’Dell of the Lansing Jobs Coalition has told City Pulse.


Also, MIRS, a Lansing newsletter, reported Thursday night
that it has learned from two sources that negotiations are underway.



O’Dell said the plan that has been discussed is for the city
to sell or lease the property to the tribe to build a two-story casino in the
parking lot behind the Lansing Center, which faces Michigan Avenue between Larch Street
and the Grand River.



He said that the plan calls for the tribe to build a bigger
casino in Lansing and then sell the first building to the city or give it back.



The longer-term plan also calls for a hotel north of the
Lansing Lugnuts’ baseball stadium on property owned by developer Pat Gillespie
and the city.



Also, a new parking deck would be built south of the Stadium
District, which is a mix of commercial and residential on Michigan Avenue
across from the stadium, O’Dell said.



O’Dell said the casino would provide 1,000 jobs, plus
another 300 construction jobs.


O’Dell said the tribe had looked at the old Knapp’s Building
downtown as a possible location but the Eyde family, which owns it, was too far
along on its plans for the site.



O’Dell said the tribe has paid $75,000 to the city to retain
a law firm to work on the deal. He identified the firm as Dickenson Wright of
Lansing.



O’Dell said his organization has collected more than 5,000
signatures on a petition for a ballot issue asking Lansing voters if they would
like to have a casino.



O’Dell said that Art Luna, president of UAW Local 602, has
been involved in negotiations.



MIRS quoted Luna as saying Thursday that, "There's been a lot of discussion. It's an
opportunity to bring jobs to Lansing."



MIRS also reported:



“Attorney
Richard McLellan, who consulted with the Bernero administration on
the feasibility of a casino in Lansing, said his conclusion is that no more
casinos can be built in Michigan, which is not an uncommon opinion, he said.
However, (Mayor Virg) Bernero is working with other legal counsel to find
another legal avenue.



"’If someone
can figure out how to do it, more power to them,’ McLellan said. ‘Maybe
somebody has a way to do it. If they do, it will be a new theory. It will have
to be.’”



“Under a
constitutional amendment approved in 2004,” MIRS added, “the creation of any
new non-Indian casino would need statewide and local voter approval. Any new
Indian casino would need to follow specific federal guidelines that McLellan
said he doesn't believe any Native American tribe can qualify under.”



O’Dell said four
tribes in the state signed agreements with the federal government that
prohibited gaming expansion. However, he said the Chippewa tribe from Sault
Ste. Marie is one of three that signed no such agreement.



MIRS reported:
“Under a constitutional amendment approved in 2004, the creation of any new
non-Indian casino would need statewide and local voter approval. Any new Indian
casino would need to follow specific federal guidelines that McLellan said he
doesn't believe any Native American tribe can qualify under.”



O’Dell said the
tribe has looked at a number of pieces of property in Lansing, but that Bob
Tresize, the president/CEO of the Lansing Economic Development Corp., insisted
it be on the river.



O’Dell said he
introduced tribal leaders to city officials in February after he proposed a
Lansing casino to them and they showed an interest.



City officials
notified some local media two weeks ago that they were invited to a briefing on
a major development plan at the downtown offices of the Christman Co., the
contractor that developed the Accident Fund Insurance Co. of America’s new
headquarters in the old Ottawa Street Power Station. However, the briefing was
called off.



Efforts to reach
the Bernero administration’s spokesman, Randy Hannan, were unsuccessful.

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