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Federal judge will hear arguments over Lansing's proposed downtown casino

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A federal judge in Grand Rapids will hear arguments Wednesday in a case that may determine if Lansing will get a downtown casino.

A year ago, the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians announced plans to build a casino that would wrap around Lansing’s downtown convention center.   The plan included the construction of a temporary casino along Michigan Ave.  

A year later, the tribe is still working to get the $245 million project to move forward. The tribe has purchased the land.   The next step involves the tribe asking the federal government to take the land into trust.    Construction of the temporary casino cannot proceed until the U.S. Interior Department takes the land into trust for the tribe.   The tribe currently operates five casinos in the Upper Peninsula.

But Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says the casino project violates a gaming compact between the state and tribe.    Schuette is asking Federal Judge Robert Jonker to consider the state's motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent the tribe from asking the federal government to take the land into trust.    The tribe has described Schuette's lawsuit as "meritless."  The federal judge is also considering the Sault Tribe's motion to dismiss the case.

The judge is holding a hearing on the legal motions Wednesday in federal court in Grand Rapids. 

The judge’s decision, either way, will likely not end the tribe’s efforts to build a casino in Lansing or the legal efforts by the state and other tribes to stop it.

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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