March 18 2013 12:00 AM

Bernero says he 'strongly' supports a Lansing casino

UPDATED Friday, Sept. 30 — Without commenting on negotiations for a casino in Lansing that sources say are occurring, Mayor Virg Bernero said today he strongly supports a casino here.

"My administration strongly supports the concept of a casino in Lansing because it would have a tremendous positive impact on our local economy,” Bernero said this afternoon is a written statement.

“A casino would create thousands of new jobs and spark even more new investment, adding to the significant momentum we have already created in these challenging economic times. We recognize that significant legal hurdles would have to be overcome to make it happen. We stand ready to support a credible effort to build a casino gaming facility if it is the right fit for Lansing."

City Pulse and MIRS, a subscription news service that covers the Capitol, reported Thursday and today that sources say negotiations are underway. Earlier, the mayor would not confirm or deny the accuracy of the reports. See for more details.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for two other tribes said today that a Lansing casino operated by a Sault Ste. Marie tribe would be a “distortion” of the Federal Gaming Regulatory Act.

“It’s 287 miles away,” said James Nye, referring the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians that sources say is negotiating with the city of Lansing to build a casino behind the Lansing Center.

“This is contrary to the intent of Congress and the federal courts,” said Nye, who represents the Saginaw-Chippewa Indian Tribe and the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi.

Nye said the two tribes are “concerned about protecting the integrity of Indian gaming as intended by Congress.”

Nye also questioned the interest of Ted O’Dell of the Lansing Jobs Coalition in bringing a casino to Lansing. “Who is paying him?” O’Dell was the source of City Pulse’s story that negotiations are under way.

O’Dell said that no one is paying him. “The whole point is jobs” for Lansing, he said. His organization has been collecting signatures on a petition that would voters to say if they want a casino in Lansing.

Moreover, O’Dell said Nye’s objections are based on his tribes’ concerns about competition. One of them, the Saginaw Chippewa Indians, owns a casino in Mt. Pleasant. “These people are not eligible to expand gaming,” whereas the Sault Ste. Marie tribe is, O’Dell maintained.

O’Dell said he disagreed with Nye “100 percent” on his interpretation of law on off-reservation gaming.

“All they have to is purchase or lease the land,” he said about the Sault Ste. Marie tribe. He said the land behind the Lansing Center would be sold or leased to the tribe, making it tribal land.

Nye disputed O’Dell’s statement that was reported by City Pulse concerning which tribes are eligible to operate off-reservation gaming.

O’Dell said four tribes in the state signed agreements with the federal government that prohibited gaming expansion. However, he said the Chippewa tribe from Sault Ste. Marie — the one sources say in negotiating for a casino here — is one of three that signed no such agreement.

Nye said the federal government recognizes 12 tribes in Michigan and that they have all signed a compact that bans off-reservation gaming unless all 12 agree to it by any one tribe.

But O’Dell said the federal government only recognizes seven of the 12 tribes.

According to the state of Michigan website, there are 12 federally recognized tribal governments in Michigan.

For more on this story, see