Sault Tribe Files Trust Land Applications for Lansing and Huron Township

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians on Tuesday filed applications with the U.S. Department of the Interior seeking to take land into trust in Lansing and in southeast Michigan’s Huron Township.

The land in Lansing will become the location of a new $245 million gaming resort first proposed by the Tribe and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero in January 2012. The land includes two parcels totaling about 2.7 acres at Michigan Avenue and North Cedar Street adjacent to and near the Lansing Center, the city’s convention and events facility.

The Tribe anticipates the land in Huron Township, totaling 71 acres at 36181 Sibley Road and I-275 southwest of Metro Airport, will also serve as a gaming location. The scope of the gaming project in Huron Township will be determined by an economic impact study currently underway.

A 1997 law passed by Congress called the Michigan Land Claims Settlement Act (MILCSA) requires the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to approve the trust land applications. The Tribe used revenues from its “Self Sufficiency Fund” to purchase the lands. The MILCSA states that “[a]ny lands acquired using amounts from interest or other income of the Self-Sufficiency Fund shall be held in trust by the Secretary for the benefit of the [Sault] Tribe.”

“The law is clear: the Secretary is required to accept these parcels in trust,” said Sault Tribe Chairperson Aaron Payment. “It is a clear, plain-language legal argument. Our Tribe is within federal law and our legal rights to pursue these opportunities to create thousands of new jobs and generate millions of dollars in new revenues that will benefit our members, the people of Lansing, public school students in Lansing, the people of Huron Township, and the entire state.”

The Tribe filed the “Mandatory Fee-to-Trust Acquisition” applications with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs in Sault Ste. Marie, Minnesota and Washington, D.C. Because the law clearly states that the Interior Secretary must approve the applications, Tribal attorneys said the Secretary could act on the applications within a matter of a few weeks.

Three recent federal court developments cleared the way for the Tribe to file the applications:

• On Dec. 18, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the Sault Tribe had the right to pursue approval of its Lansing casino.
• On May 27 of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a somewhat similar case that the State of Michigan could not block the Bay Mills Tribe from opening a casino on land not part of its gaming compact with the state.
• Last week, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette withdrew from the U.S. Supreme Court a lawsuit that effectively blocked the filing of the applications.
Payment said that while more legal challenges are likely, the Tribe “remains absolutely confident in our legal theory and committed to pursuing the success of these projects.”

“The attorney general and other parties, including the owners of other casinos, have threatened to do whatever it takes to stop our Tribe from exercising our legal rights, which means they appear willing to block jobs and revenues for Michigan communities that could benefit from these projects,” Payment said. “We are hopeful the attorney general will drop any effort to impose additional long delays on projects that will benefit the entire state.”

Payment said the Huron Township land is a “perfect casino location,” with easy access to I-275, I-75 and Metro Airport. The land already includes a large, unfinished building that could easily be converted to gaming use and tribal offices. The casino would create jobs and generate revenues to provide services to Tribal members who live in Metro Detroit.

The 125,000-square-foot Lansing casino would create 1,500 permanent jobs and 700 construction jobs. It would also generate revenues the City of Lansing would use to fund the Lansing Promise Scholarships, a program to fund four-year college scholarships for graduates of the city’s high schools.

The Tribe said both casinos could feature either Class 2 or Class 3 gaming. Class 3 gaming includes electronic and table games normally associated with most large casinos (slot machines, poker, blackjack, craps, and roulette). Class 2 gaming is typically defined as games of chance such as bingo, pull tabs, and others. To casino customers, many electronic Class 2 games look and play just like traditional slot machines, even though they are not.

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Sault Tribe Will Continue to Pursue its Legal Right to Develop Lansing Casino

This statement is from Aaron Payment, Chairperson of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Payment is commenting on today’s ruling from U.S. District Judge Robert J. Jonker related to the Tribe’s proposed Lansing casino.

“The Sault Tribe remains undeterred and steadfastly committed to pursuing our legal right to develop our Lansing casino. Anyone who understands tribal gaming and the trust land process also understands that this is going to be lengthy process with multiple legal steps along the way. Today’s ruling is simply the first step in the legal process. At the end of the day, we expect to prevail because our 1997 federal Land Claim Settlement Act clearly gives us the right, and because of the substantial economic benefits the project will generate for the people of Greater Lansing and the members of our Sault Tribe.” 

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Mayor Bernero, Sault Tribe Chairman Payment Announce Completed Land Purchase for Casino Project

LANSING, Mich. —The City of Lansing and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians today completed a critical step in their effort to win federal approval of a casino in downtown Lansing, city and tribal officials announced.

The Tribe today completed the agreement to purchase city-owned land adjacent to the Lansing Center where the casino will be built. Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, Sault Tribe Chairperson Aaron Payment, and Bob Liggett — owner of Big Boy restaurants across Michigan and former owner of the very successful Lansing-based radio station WFMK — signed documents today completing the transfer of the land to the Tribe’s ownership. Liggett is the main investor in the project and owns a majority of Lansing Future Development, LLC, the Sault Tribe’s partner in the project.

“I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to finalize the transfer of land to the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, our partner in this game-changing project,” Bernero said. “While we still have a long way to go, today’s milestone gets us one step closer to building a project that will help boost the economic revitalization of Michigan’s capital city and transform our downtown into a major entertainment destination. Our eyes are on the prize – this project will create thousands of good jobs, attract tens of thousands of tourists to the region, and generate enough revenue to allow our city to send all of our school district graduates to college through the Lansing Promise.”

The Tribe will now apply to the federal government to take the land into trust, clearing the way for the construction of the $245 million casino, which will be built in the heart of the city’s entertainment district, adjacent to the Lansing Center. The 125,000-square-foot casino will create an estimated 1,500 permanent jobs at the property and more than 700 construction jobs.

“We wouldn’t be to this point in the process if it wasn’t for the team of professionals involved,” Lansing Future Development’s CEO Bill Martines said. “The city’s department heads, the private professionals representing the city and the developer, and the Sault Tribe’s staff, have countless hours invested.  At the end of the day, this project will be successful because of the expertise and commitment from these individuals.”

“This is a wonderful day for the members of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians,” Payment said. “We continue to move aggressively on this project, and we will file our land trust application as soon as possible. We are grateful to have the city and people of Lansing as partners in this important endeavor. By exercising our sovereign government’s legal right to develop a casino, we will be creating a project that will generate significant economic benefits for Sault Tribe members in addition to creating thousands of good jobs.”

The Sault Tribe has successfully operated Indian casinos in the state since 1984 and currently owns five Kewadin Casino properties in the Upper Peninsula. With more than 40,000 members, the Sault Tribe is the largest federally-recognized tribe east of the Mississippi and one of the largest job providers in Northern Michigan with 1,900 employees at its casinos, other businesses, and tribal government agencies.

The Tribe will file an application with the U.S. Department of the Interior to take the land into trust as tribal lands under a specific provision of the federal Land Claims Act that gives only the Sault Tribe the legal right to the process. The Tribe intends to open the casino after receiving federal approval.

The Tribe will use casino revenues to improve programs and services to members, including health care, education, housing, elder care, social services, and more. The City of Lansing will use its annual revenue payments from the facility to create the Lansing Promise, a program to fund four-year college scholarships for Lansing School District graduates.  The land transaction completed today includes a parcel adjacent to the Lansing Center at Michigan Avenue and Larch, which the Tribe acquired for a total cost of $280,000, plus $9,000 in closing costs. The purchase price reflects the full fair market value of the land. The agreement between the city and Tribe is for the Tribe to close on the other two other parcels of land over time at a price already agreed to by all parties, assuming all approvals for the project are secured.

Plans for the casino include up to 3,000 slot machines and 48 table games, and assorted bars and restaurants in an urban modern-themed property. The project has been approved by the Lansing City Council, the Sault Tribe Board of Directors, and the Sault Tribe membership in a tribal referendum held earlier this year.

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Lansing Casino Partners Agree to 90-Day Extension to Complete Land Transfer

LANSING, Mich. — The business partners in the new casino proposed for downtown Lansing have agreed to extend for 90 days the deadline for transferring ownership of the land for the project from the City of Lansing to the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, it was announced today.

Due to the complexity of the project and the many requirements of seeking federal approval for the casino, the partners said they simply could not complete all necessary pre-development work by the self-imposed deadline of Aug. 1.

“We are all here today to reaffirm our total commitment to this partnership and our unwavering drive to seeking federal approval for this spectacular Lansing casino and the more than 1,500 permanent jobs it will create,” said Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. “We are also here today to announce that while we have made great progress on the plans and the project, the clock ran out on us to get everything done that was intended by Aug. 1, so we have mutually agreed to extend the deadline another 90 days to Nov. 1. We will have it done by then.”

Said Sault Tribe Chairperson Aaron Payment: “My job is to protect the best interests of my tribal membership, which in the case of this project means making sure all necessary project details are settled before we file our trust land application. We knew the initial deadline we set of Aug. 1 was aggressive given all the work that must be done to file a solid and comprehensive application with the federal government to take this land into trust. While we have made significant progress on many aspects of the project, we simply need more time to get everything done that must be completed.”

Some of the project details that are still being completed include a full parking analysis, project aesthetics, consideration of building a permanent structure versus a temporary building on the site of the corner parcel, and more detailed civil engineering work that includes a detailed utility plan.

“Let me emphasize that all of these matters will be completed, none of the issues we face are remotely insurmountable, and we will get this done,” Bernero said. “While we have made a ton of progress, we simply just could not get everything done as fast as we initially thought.”

The $245 million Sault Tribe casino will be built in the heart of the city’s entertainment district, adjacent to the Lansing Center. The 125,000-square-foot Kewadin Lansing Casino will create an estimated 1,500 permanent jobs at the property and more than 700 construction jobs. A temporary casino would open in advance of the opening of the permanent facility.

The Sault Tribe’s partner in the project is a group of investors previously known as Lansing Future LLC. The group has restructured itself and changed its name to Lansing Future Development LLC.  The restructuring occurred as one of the investors has decided to assume a much larger role in the project.  That investor is Robert G. Liggett Jr., owner of Big Boy restaurants across Michigan.  Mr. Liggett was and continues to be the project’s largest investor.  All of the original investors in Lansing Future LLC remain partners in the reorganized entity and Bill Martines remains CEO.

The Tribe will use the casino revenues to improve programs and services to members, including health care, education, housing, elder care, social services, and more.

The City of Lansing will use its annual revenue payments from the facility to create the Lansing Promise, a program to fund four-year college scholarships for Lansing School District graduates.

The project has already been approved by the Lansing City Council, the Sault Tribe Board of Directors, and the Sault Tribe membership in a tribal referendum held earlier this year.

The project will be built on City of Lansing-owned land to be purchased by the Sault Tribe. The Tribe will file an application with the U.S. Department of the Interior to take the land into trust as tribal lands under a specific provision of the federal Land Claims Act that gives only the Sault Tribe the legal right to the process. The Tribe’s intent is to open the casino after receiving federal approval.

Plans for the casino include up to 3,000 slot machines and 48 table games, and assorted bars and restaurants in an urban modern-themed property.

The Sault Tribe has successfully operated Indian casinos in the state since 1984 and currently owns five Kewadin Casino properties in the eastern Upper Peninsula. With more than 40,000 members, the Sault Tribe is the largest federally-recognized tribe east of the Mississippi and one of the largest job providers in Northern Michigan with 1,900 employees at its casinos, other businesses, and tribal government agencies. 

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Tribe, Mayor respond to Attorney General’s letter to U.S. Department of Interior

Mayor Virg Bernero issued the following statement in response to Attorney General Bill Schuette’s recent letter to the U.S. Department of Interior concerning the proposed Lansing Kewadin casino:

“The Attorney General is entitled to his opinion, but of course we respectfully disagree with him. Along with our partners in the Sault Tribe, we will continue to vigorously pursue our plans to establish a casino in Lansing, which will bring millions of dollars in new investment and thousands of new jobs to the region.”

Sault Ste. Marie Tribal Chairman Joe Eitrem issued the following statement in response to Attorney General Bill Schuette’s recent letter to the U.S. Department of Interior concerning the proposed Lansing Kewadin casino:

“We are aware of the Attorney General’s views, we respect and we disagree.  We are confident that our proposal is authorized by law and will survive any such challenge.”

 

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Sault Tribe Members Approve Lansing Casino Project

Members of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians voted to approve a referendum that supports the Tribe’s plan to seek federal approval to open a casino in downtownLansing.

Sault Tribe members approved the referendum by a vote of 3,947 to 2,311 via mail ballots counted tonight by the Tribe’s Election Committee.

The ballots were mailed to all registered tribal voters on April 12 and had to be returned by today. The election cost roughly $30,000.

The election was called for by a referendum petition signed by 106 tribal members. The ballot asked tribal members to approve or not approve Resolution 2012-11 passed the Tribe’s Board of Directors to seek to build and open a new casino inLansing.

            The ballot language read as follows:      

            EXPLANATION: On January 24, 2012 The Board of Directors approved Resolution 2012-11 which allows the Tribe to try to open a casino in the City of Lansing.  The Resolution authorizes and directs as follows:

  • The Tribe may purchase property in the City of Lansing and the Tribe would try to open a tribal casino on the property;
  • The City of Lansing will receive “limited revenue sharing payments” in exchange for its support and for providing police, fire and utility services;
  • The Tribe will allow the City of Lansing to enforce the above in Federal court’
  • Money from the Self Sufficiency Fund will be used to purchase the property;
  • The amount of money available to fund the next annual elder distributions will not decrease;
  • And 15% of the Tribe’s profit will be set aside for the various elder programs and for a college scholarship program.

If you believe the project should move forward VOTE TO APPROVE.  If you believe the project should not move forward, VOTE TO DISAPPROVE.

Sault Tribe Chairman Joe Eitrem thanked all tribal members who participated in the election and expressed gratitude to members who voted for approval.

“If we succeed in opening a casino in Lansing, it will provide a new source of funds desperately needed to fully fund and restore membership programs that have been cut, to replenish our Self Sufficiency Fund, to pay down our debt, and to bring more services to members,” Eitrem said.

The casino has already received all necessary approvals from Lansing, including from Mayor Virg Bernero and the City Council. Next steps in the project are to conclude the Tribe’s purchase of the land where the casino will be built adjacent to theLansing Center and to submit an application to the U.S. Department of the Interior to take the land into trust for gaming.

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Kewadin Lansing: What has the tribe spent so far; why is the developer doing this?

The Sault Tribe Board of Directors is committed to providing tribal members with complete and accurate information about the Tribe’s proposed Kewadin Lansing casino.

Facts:

The Tribe has spent virtually no money on the Lansing casino project. The developer, Lansing Future, has a pre-development budget of $5 million and a temporary casino budget of $5 million, none of which is the Tribe’s money. The developer is using those funds to cover all upfront costs. The specific details are contained in a Turnkey Development Agreement between the Sault Tribe and the developer.  This agreement can be found on this blog.  In general, the developer has agreed to provide funds for all costs and predevelopment expenses.  This includes any legal fees incurred by the Tribe, as well as costs associated with establishing our legal right to conduct gaming and building and opening the temporary casino (travel, meetings with membership etc). Assuming we are successful in establishing our legal right to conduct gaming, the developer will assist the Tribe in obtaining financing for the permanent casino.

Why is the developer covering all upfront costs? Because the Tribe will pay the developer a fee equal to 14% of operating profits (after payment of expenses) for the first seven years the casino is open. After seven years, the developer will no longer be involved in the casino.  We are estimating our operating profit to be $115 million a year, based on total revenues of $275 million.  In addition, the Tribe would be responsible for repaying the developer up to $10 million to cover the initial legal and start-up costs, but only if the casino opens. Bottom line: The Tribe would have no chance to open a casino in Lansing without the developer covering all upfront costs. 

The Tribe needs the additional revenue Lansing will provide!

Please get the facts before you vote – visit our website at saultribe.com and click on the red “Lansing Facts” button or talk with your unit representative.  Vote YES on the Lansing Casino Referendum!

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