Proposed gambling sites in Port Huron, Romulus at issue
Although the House Natural Resources Committee already approved it overwhelmingly, Judiciary Chairman John Conyers of Detroit -- an opponent of the bill -- claimed jurisdiction over part of the bill.
The legislation has been hotly contested, with Detroit's lawmakers saying it would threaten the casinos there. Meanwhile, some argue it would set a precedent for other tribes across the country to raise land claims as a way to get casinos far from their reservations.
Proponents say that's bunk -- that land claims are typically settled by Congress and this is no more than that.
Conyers, in his opening remarks, noted that MGM has spent $800 million on a new Detroit casino.
"Undoubtedly, MGM would never have made that kind of investment if it knew that Congress would be shoe-horning in additional casinos right outside the city borders," Conyers said.
Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick also testified against it, noting MGM's investment and the questions about whether the tribes are circumventing an established process for using lands for gaming.
"These are dangerous bills and a precedent I don't think Congress wants to set," she said.
But the Bay Mills and Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa tribes say the deals -- signed off on by Govs. John Engler and Jennifer Granholm -- settle claims on the Upper Peninsula going back more than 100 years.
Both Romulus and Port Huron desperately want the casinos as well.
But while MGM is clearly opposed, the feelings of the other two Detroit casinos are more complicated. The Sault tribe, which would build in Romulus, already owns the majority stake in Greektown Casino. And Marian Ilitch, the owner of MotorCity Casino, works closely with the developer proposing the Port Huron facility, though she is not directly involved. She hasn't raised any objections.
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