DETROIT: A small tribe of Michigan Native Americans has taken on PR help as it fights to open a casino in Detroit.The Lac Vieux Desert Tribe has sued the city over the way it granted licenses to the three casinos now operating there, claiming the process illegally excluded the tribe.
The matter has been tied up in the courts for five years, but the tribe has won recent court rulings and the future status of the existing casinos is now unclear because of the court actions. The three existing casinos have paid more than $300 million in taxes since opening in mid-1999.
Some columnists and commentators have said the tribe is simply after a monetary payoff to drop its legal actions. The tribe recently hired RAMP Public Communication Specialists to "try to bring a face to the tribe," said president Victor Pytko. "The impression in Detroit is that they're just out to get some money,
Pytko has been making the tribe's case to the local media, has established a website for the 450-member tribe, and is media training a tribal spokesperson.
Pytko is working with other members of the Individual Communicators Network, a group of independent practitioners he put together earlier this year, to do attitudinal surveys on how Detroiters view the tribe.
The tribe also has found a partner in its casino bid, Detroit businessman Don Barden who owns casinos in other states, to show it is serious about operating a casino, said Pytko.