Judge Ruling Puts Lansing Casino On Hold

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If you ask Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero what's ahead for the parking lot next to the Lansing Center, he would still say a casino.

"This is one of those roadblocks that we knew was coming," he said.

That 'roadblock' is an order issued by US Circuit Court Judge Robert Jonker, Tuesday, putting the casino on hold, indefinitely.

Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a lawsuit against the Sault Sainte Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, last September, claiming it didn't have a written revenue sharing agreement with other state tribes.
Judge Jonker ruled in favor of the state, saying the Sault Tribe violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

James Nye is a spokesman for several tribes in the state and believes it was the right move.

"Judge Jonker's order confirms what we have said all along," he said. "The tribal state gaming compacts were intended to stop tribes from reservation shopping. This casino was delayed by probably two years."

Even if the Sault Tribe appeals, Nye says it will be difficult for them to reach an agreement with other tribes and that could stop the project entirely.

"It's going to take many more years in order for this lawsuit to be resolved and until it gets resolved, this Lansing casino is dead," he said.

Supporters of the casino disagree and are confident the project will move forward.

"I've talked to all of the attorneys and this is not uncommon. These are complex issues," said Mayor Bernero. "This is the first or second inning of what's going to be a long game."

The Sault Tribe released a statement from Chairperson Aaron Payment, Tuesday, saying they are within their rights to build a casino.

It reads, "At the end of the day, we expect to prevail because our 1997 federal Land Claim Settlement Act clearly gives us the right, and because of the substantial economic benefits the project will generate for the people of Greater Lansing and the members of our Sault Tribe."

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