March 18 2013 12:00 AM

Group takes new tactic in attempts to bring a casino to Lansing

Monday, Aug. 1 – A local organization trying to bring a tribally owned casino to downtown Lansing is taking a new approach on how it plans to do so.

Instead of seeking a nonbinding referendum to gauge sentiment for a casino among Lansing residents, the Lansing Jobs Coalition is hoping to convince the City Council to adopt a resolution that says the city is interested in selling or entrusting city land to a Native American tribe for the purpose of opening a casino, said the coalition’s chairman, Ted O’Dell.

“In an effort to circumvent the process and make things go a little faster, we decided to take the issue directly to City Council,” O’Dell said.

The coalition initially hoped to place the referendum on the primary ballot, but it fell short of the 4,100 valid signatures needed to get it on Tuesday’s ballot. When the coalition turned in about 3,400 signatures by late April — 2,129 of which were deemed valid — the City Charter allowed the group 10 more days to get about 2,000 more valid signatures.

O’Dell said the coalition collected about 2,000 more signatures in that 10-day period, but the group decided to hold onto the signatures while it makes its case to the Council. O’Dell said it’s uncertain how many of those signatures are valid because they were not vetted by Swope. Signatures are good for 90 days, the City Charter says.

O’Dell said he e-mailed Council members 11 days ago to request a meeting with each member to explain the plan. He also requested to have the issue placed before the Committee of the Whole so the coalition could make a public presentation.

So far, though, O’Dell said he has not received a response to either request.

“It’s disconcerting for us. Lansing is in an economic tailspin. We’re trying to create jobs, and city officials are not even giving us the time of day,” he said.

O’Dell estimates 1,000 jobs could result from a downtown casino. He has said three tribes are interested in coming to the city if voters approve the initiative, but declined to say which tribes.

A separate statewide campaign seeks to change the state Constitution to allow for seven more non-Indian casinos, including one in Lansing.

The statewide campaign, called Michigan is Yours!, needs 400,000 signatures by Oct. 1 to get it on the Nov. 8 ballot.