Casino proposal passes in Lansing City Council, sparks controversy

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A plan to build a new casino in the heart of downtown Lansing got one step closer to coming to fruition Monday after the Lansing City Council approved it 7-1 during its meeting.

The casino, named Lansing Kewadin Casino, would be a 279,000 square foot building next to the Lansing Center at Cedar Street and Michigan Avenue, according to information provided on the City of Lansing’s website.

The project budget is projected to be $245 million and annual revenues are expected to reach $250 million. The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians will own and operate the casino if the proposal comes through.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, an ardent supporter of the project, said the decision was important to Lansing and could bring increased traffic and more than 2,500 jobs to Lansing.

“It is easy to get so caught up in the details that we lose sight of the big picture,” Bernero said.

The project still needs to be passed by the state Legislature, Gov. Rick Snyder and the Department of the Interior.

The subject was controversial, with 45 people presenting opinions for and against the proposal.

Tim Schmitt, a development analyst for East Lansing, said during the meeting that his planning experience gave him the feeling that a casino would benefit the way the Lansing area is run.

Although Schmitt said he has not lived in the area for a very long time, he said the casino could benefit the economy.

“I am often struck by how dead the north side in compared to the south side,” Schmitt said. “This a truly wonderful opportunity to change how that area functions.”

However, not all the community was behind the project. Lansing resident Alex Hernandez said Bernero and other supporters of the project were disenfranchising voters and making the city worse for wear.

“Lansing, our state capitol, will be worse than other (cities),” Hernandez said.
Bernero said while there are potential problems with the casino, the benefits outweigh the costs.

“Many of the problems I’ve heard are not unique,” Bernero said.

Councilmember Jessica Yorko said the issue was controversial and could continue to be an issue within the community because of the lack of support.

“We’re going to upset half of our constituents with whatever decision we make tonight, and that is a difficult place,” Yorko said. “I don’t believe, from the contacts I’ve received, that (all) residents support the issue.”

Nonetheless, the council passed the legislative measures with a 7-1 majority.

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