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Wednesday, March 7,2012

City Council & the casino

As a vote nears, members are still listening and making up their minds.

by Sam Inglot

If Jody Washington were speaking only as a constituent, and not the 1st Ward City Councilwoman, she said she would be thrilled to bring a casino to downtown Lansing. 

Washington, along with other members, say they need to hear more public comment and have a few more questions answered before they’ll make their decision. A vote on the Bernero administration’s tribal casino proposal is expected March 19.

“If I were just speaking as a constituent, I would be very excited about this project, very excited to bring some life and business into town,” Washington said following Monday’s meeting. “But I have to consider everybody’s wishes as a Councilperson.”

The casino could be the final piece to help create a “draw” for convention goers and visitors that Lansing lacks, Washington said.

“A casino, and the ballpark, and the restaurants — and maybe we could really get a draw, because right now we don’t have it,” she said. “We don’t have the warm weather, we don’t have the beach, and we need to diversify our economy.”

Tina Houghton, who represents the 2nd Ward, agreed with Washington that the casino could make Lansing “more of a destination.”

The educational benefits were also at the top of City Council lists.

“It’s hard to walk away from affording kids the opportunity for a four-year degree at a public university anywhere in the state,” said  At Large Councilman Derrick Quinney, referring to the to fund scholarships for Lansing high school grads.

Houghton, Washington and Quinney all said they liked the fact that the casino would create jobs, provide money for the educational fund and help bring new energy to downtown. 

Council President Brian Jeffries and Quinney said they are awaiting answers on how many Lansing residents would be hired for the construction and operating process. 

Crime and gambling addiction associated with the proposed casino have been some of the chief concerns from the community. Council members don’t seem too worried about crime rates shooting through the roof or gambling addiction becoming rampant. 

“[Gambling addiction is] a small percentage, and is it really our job to legislate and protect everybody from themselves? I don’t know,” Washington said. “I understand those fears, but there’s also many, many people that have it as a form of entertainment and it’s not an addiction.”

“By and large when you look at other municipalities or other communities that have casinos in them, they too are not reporting any large spikes in crime rates,” said Quinney, although he did say he would like to see more data on the issue.

No Council members would say how they were going to vote. Those interviewed expressed the need to hear more from the community.

“All in all, I feel kind of positive about it, I do. But I’m still listening,” Houghton said. “I haven’t made a decision by any stretch of the imagination.” 


Community Forum

Lansing City Council listens to the public’s views on the proposed Kewadin Casino. 

6 p.m. today

Foster Community Center, 200 N. Foster St.

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