SAULT STE. MARIE (WWJ/AP) – Members of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians have approved a proposal to seek federal permission to open a $245 million casino in downtown Lansing, the tribe announced Thursday.

The Upper Peninsula tribe said its members voted 3,947 to 2,311 in favor of the plan. The tribe’s elections committee conducted a mail vote that ended Thursday.

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“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,” tribal Chairman Joe Eitrem said in a statement.

The Lansing City Council on March 19 voted to move forward with the proposed casino by selling property to the Sault tribe.

Plans for the casino were announced in January. Mayor Virg Bernero has strongly promoted the plan, which backers say would create jobs and help improve the city.

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Bernero has said the casino would bring an estimated 2,200 union jobs, as well as generate $5 million to $6 million annually for the “Lansing Promise” — a college scholarship fund for area students.

The  125,000-square-foot casino would be adjacent to the Lansing Convention Center, and would offer up to 3,000 slot machines and 48 gambling tables.

The plan is opposed by Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette, as well as some other American Indian tribes with competing casinos. Snyder and Schuette even jointly sent a letter to the tribe in February, which said the state would take “whatever steps are necessary” to prevent the casino from opening.

Michigan has more than two dozen casinos, including three in Detroit that are not Indian-sponsored.

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