Mayor believes BIA decision coming soon on Sault Tribe casino

Artist's rendering of the proposed Kewadin Lansing Casino in Lansing, Michigan. Image from Sault Tribe

The mayor of Lansing, Michigan, remains a strong supporter of the off-reservation casino sought by the Sault Tribe Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

Mayor Virg Bernero recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to discuss the $245 million Kewadin Lansing Casino. He predicts the Bureau of Indian Affairs will make a decision on the project in the next few months.

"I've never been more upbeat, I've never felt better about the fact that I believe this will come to fruition," Bernero told News 10.

The tribe submitted the land-into-trust application for the site in June 2014. There is no timeline for a decision but rivals don't think one is coming soon.

An aerial view of the proposed Kewadin Lansing Casino in Lansing, Michigan. Image from Sault Tribe

“It is surprisingly presumptuous of Mayor Bernero to predict that the U.S. Department of the Interior would move the Sault Tribe’s request for trust land ahead of other tribes that have been waiting much longer for a decision," James Nye, a spokesperson for the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians and the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe, told the station. "Furthermore, a decision anytime soon would be unprecedented resulting in the shortest time period in the history of Indian gaming in the United States.”

The Lansing site was acquired in connection with the Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act. The Sault Tribe believes the law requires the BIA to place the land in trust.

Mandatory acquisitions, however, do not happen overnight, as Nye pointed out In the case of the Tohono O'odham Nation, the BIA took 18 months to make a decision on an application that was submitted in connection with a land claim settlement.

As for the Catawba Nation of South Carolina, the BIA has yet to provide an answer. The tribe submitted an application in September 2013 in connection with a mandatory acquisition provision of its land claim settlement.

The Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma waited more than five years for a decision. In that situation, the BIA refused to place a site in Kansas in trust, saying the land was not purchased with funds from a settlement act.

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