Sault Tribe's trust land application denied for Lansing casino

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LANSING, Mich (WILX) - The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians have received a letter from the United States Department of the Interior that their trust land applications involving property in Lansing and Wayne County have been denied. The letter states the Tribe failed to prove that acquisition of the land would "effect a consolidation or enhancement of tribal lands."

The Tribe hoped to use the land in Lansing to develop a new casino proposed by the Tribe and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero in January of 2012. Plans for the casino involved two parcels of land at Michigan Avenue and North Cedar Street next to the Lansing Center.

Bernero says the decision is a flawed one. The $245 million project he says would be transformational for Lansing's downtown.

"Economically, it'll make a huge difference in our downtown," said Bernero. "It'll give us great convention business, help our convention center and help us to create a more lively downtown."

For the Lansing Promise, It could also be transformational as well. The casino could help completely fund college for Lansing Schools graduates.

"If you look at the Kalamazoo Promise and what it has done for Kalamazoo," said Bernero." "It has done wonderful things for not just kids and families, but for the city itself it really changes things."

Michael Mudgett is an addiction counsler in Okemos and has been in the business for some time.

Mudgett has watched peoples lives slowly spiral out of control because of gambling.

"We are not against gambling but we want people to be aware of the dangers of gambling," said Mudgett. "It effects families, marriages and it effects retirement."

The Tribe also wanted to use 71 acres of land in Wayne County's Huron Township at 36181 Sibley Road and I-275 southwest of Metro Airport for a casino.

A spokesman for the Tribe says they are looking at legal, administrative, and legal options to pursue with their applications, and have no intention of giving up.

Mayor Bernero released a statement saying “The Interior Department’s decision to deny the Sault Tribe’s trust application is very disappointing, but we stand strong with our tribal partners and will continue the fight to bring a casino to downtown Lansing. It is clear that the Tribe and the city would derive tremendous benefits from opening a casino in Lansing. The revenues generated by such a facility would provide critical resources and services for the Tribe and its members, as well as fully funding the Lansing Promise scholarship program that would provide four years of free college tuition to Lansing’s children. We knew from the beginning this process would be long and arduous and we look forward to the next steps toward bringing the benefits of a casino to the Tribe and the city.”

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