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Lansing casino project misses self-imposed deadline

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Plans for a casino in downtown Lansing are taking longer to pull together than developers had originally planned.

The Sault Sainte Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians wants to build a $245 million casino next to Lansing’s convention center. Since January, the tribe, the city of Lansing and a group of private developers have scrambled to get approval from different groups, acquire the land and put a final plan together.

Their aim was to have everything in place by now, so they could complete the land transfer to the tribe, so they in turn could ask the federal government to take the land into trust for the tribe. That's a key step in the process.

But not everything is in place, so they’ve added an extra 90 days to their deadline.

Among the issues still to be resolved: a full parking analyst for the casino, whether to build a permanent or temporary building on the site of the corner parcel (that would be the site of a temporary casino while the rest of the complex is built) and more detailed civil engineering work that includes a detailed utility plan. 

“When we set an aggressive timeline, it’s because we intend to meet them,” says tribal chairman Aaron Payment. “If you need to revise those timelines, it’s to make them a little more realistic. That’s part of doing business. That’s not a delay. It’s not a deficiency. It’s realism.”

Representatives of the tribe, the city of Lansing and the private developers took pains to discourage the use of the word “delay” when describing today’s development.

“While that internal deadline may have changed…the overall project is not delayed,” insisted Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero.

Tribal chairman Payment says the change will not affect the casino project’s overall timeline. The tribe now plans to approach the federal government by Nov. 1.

That’s when real delays could happen. Several other casino-owning tribes and Michigan’s governor and attorney general are expected to challenge the Lansing casino project in court.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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