4 years ago, Lansing, Michigan seemed like it was on the cusp of adding the Midwest’s newest casino after a proposal was made by the Sault St. Marie tribe of the Chippewa Indians.
Still, to this day, the proposed casino is no closer to breaking ground nor opening it’s doors. There are a multitude of reasons why this is so, but the first and biggest roadblock is that the US Department of Interior has yet to approve the tribe’s casino application. The application was submitted more than 2 years ago, so the growing frustration on the part of the Sault St. Marie is understandable.
Even if the prospective casino were to have its application approved today or at any point in the near future, there would still be plenty of roadblocks that might do their part in ensuring that the project will never get underway.
One of these roadblocks is the seemingly inevitable legal battles that will ensue. The Sault St. Marie are not the only Native Tribe in the area, and it is widely believed that 2 other local tribes will do their best to block the casino’s construction.
What’s more, disputes within the Sault St. Marie governing body are also hindering the casino’s construction. According to the Lansing State Journal, Aaron Payment, the tribal board chair, was stripped of his duties last week. This means that even if the application was approved today, there would be no one to sign off on breaking ground and finally getting the project off its feet. Payment has since started a petition in an effort to get his job position back, but until that is all sorted out the casino will remain nothing more than a good idea.
Despite all this drama and turmoil, the city of Lansing still remains committed to the idea of hosting a casino. In the tribe’s official proposal, there were plans in place to ensure that any revenue brought into the city from the casino would be put to good use. Part of this plan included funding for college scholarships that would be awarded to students from Lansing’s school district. The casino that was proposed is supposed to host more than 3,000 slots and in upwards of 50 table games. Beyond that, there will be bars and restaurants as we as enough parking for almost 3,000.
As for the status of the application, a Department of Interior spokesperson, last week, said that the tribe’s gaming application is still in the review process. Offering us very little in the way of other information, it still remains wholly unclear if and when the Sault St. Marie will learn their casino-owning fate. Perhaps the current power struggle between Payment and other high-ranking tribal officials is holding the Department of Interior up. There really is no way to say for certain. What we can say, however, is that this looks like a battle that is still far from over.
Even with the Aaron Payment debacle remaining unresolved, the tribe is still confident that the project will go through. After all, all of its board members are in full support of the casino project. Separately, the Sault St. Marie are attempting to build a casino near Detroit. With both projects hanging in the balance, there is plenty of hope that 2017 will bring with it the construction of at least one of the two casinos.