In Grand Rapids on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker ruled against the state of Michigan’s suit attempting to block a downtown Lansing tribal casino.
The ruling viewed as a step in the right direction for the Lansing Kewadin casino project by backers. The current suit is in addition to a previously rejected claim against individual members of board of directors of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, and its attempt to gain federal approval for casino proposals including one in Huron Township south of Detroit, as well as the Lansing location. Tribal Chairman Aaron Payment said, “The ruling is a clear signal that the Sault Tribe is within our rights to pursue the casinos, which will create thousands of good jobs for Mid-Michigan and southeast Michigan, and millions of dollars in new revenues for the two regions and the entire state,” as obtained from mlive.com.
Last year trust land applications were submitted to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior by the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, and while a time frame is unknown, it is believed that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) will be forthcoming with a decision. Virg Bernero, Lansing’s mayor echoed the tribal chairman’s statement that the addition of the casino would bring thousands of good-paying jobs to the city, enabling it to fund scholarship programs throughout Lansing.
Originally, it was the state’s contention that a trust submission under the Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act MILCSA would be in violation of the compact between the tribe and the state. That compact requires there be a revenue-sharing agreement with other tribes in order for land to be taken into trust for gaming purposes under the Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states cannot sue a tribe unless allowed by Congress. The judge said negotiations between the tribe and state could continue and that, the tribe, “which inhabited the eastern portion of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan since before the coming of the Europeans,” and that according to records, a compact agreement was reached with the state in 1993.
The proposed site for the Kewadin casino is just blocks from the state capitol building, adjacent to the Lansing Center. The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians operates five casinos under the Kewadin name in the Michigan, Upper Peninsula cities of Sault Ste. Marie, St. Ignace, Manistique, Christmas and Hessel.