Lansing casino battle continues


The battle to build a Lansing casino still is underway and will be waged in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati.

The Sault St. Marie Tribe of the Chippewa Indians has been given a little less than a month to proceed with an appeal of a federal ruling blocking the attempt to build a casino in Lansing.

The tribe appealed the ruling in early April and was notified April 16 the court of appeals would hear the case and expedite a decision.

The tribe was partnering with Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero’s administration to build a $245 million casino in downtown Lansing.

However, a federal court judge issued an injunction in early March to prevent the tribe from applying to the U.S. Department of the Interior for the right to use land.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a lawsuit in September claiming the tribe couldn’t use the land so far from its reservation because of state and federal laws.

The tribe, however, argues it is allowed to use the land under a provision specific to the tribe in the 1997 Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act.

Sault St. Marie Tribe general counsel John Wernet said he is confident the appeals court will see the case that way.

“I think the takeaway is that, despite the initial setback in this early skirmish of the case, we remain confident of our legal position and determined to press ahead,” Wernet said. “We’re very confident that once the court has had the opportunity to look at all the evidence, that the court will agree that Section 9 does not prevent the tribe from pursuing its trust application in this case.”

Schuette’s spokeswoman Joy Yearout said in a statement the attorney general’s office agrees with the court’s initial ruling, barring the “unchecked expansion of tribal gaming in Michigan,” and the office expects the tribe’s appeal to be unsuccessful.

Bernero’s office could not be reached for comment.

The tribe has been given until May 16 and the state of Michigan until June 17 to file an extended brief arguing the case.

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