Sault plans for Lansing casino rely on trust land approval

The Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians has big plans for a new casino in Lansing, and possibly another in Detroit.

Tribal officials say they expect to hear back from the U.S. Department of the Interior within a few weeks on an application that would clear the way for a casino in Lansing

Before the tribe can proceed with plans for the $245 million casino, trust land has to be approved for the project.

John Wernet is general counsel for the Sault Tribe.

He said the casino would bring jobs and revenue to support the tribe, which he said is the largest tribe East of the Mississippi with over 40,000 members.

“The majority of tribes tend to be located in very rural or remote areas where opportunities for economic development are quite limited, and really need to be able to find some other way to raise revenues,” Wernet said.

According to Wernet, the Sault tribe has thousands of members in the Lansing and Detroit areas. Members who may benefit from jobs a casino would bring.

He said the tribe is still seeing opposition to their casino plans from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe in Mount Pleasant, Nottawaseppi Huron Band and the state of Michigan Attorney General.

Wernet says the Sault tribe is confident a Lansing casino would be profitable.

He said most tribes in Michigan and around the country, are turning to casinos to support themselves.

“We are carefully looking at the market,” Wernet said,”We believe that a casino in the location that we’ve obtained down(state) can be very profitable but it has to be right-sized and done properly and managed well and we’re very confident that we can handle all of that.”

Wernet said the Sault tribe has thousands of members in Lansing and Detroit areas.