Detroit voters last Wednesday defeated an advisory referendum that would authorize the City Council to approve licenses for casino gambling.

The referendum, which lost in a 64,885-to-62,326 vote, was advisory because it would be valid only if state law is changed to allow gambling in Michigan, said Jeff Blaine, the city's deputy city clerk. State law currently bars gambling.

Blaine said the defeat marks the fourth time that Detroit voters have rejected a gambling referendum since 1976.

But casino gambling could still become a reality in Detroit if the U.S. Department of the interior allows developers to place parcels of city land in trusteeship for an Indian tribe, Blaine said. Under U.S. laws governing Indian affairs, tribes would be able to operate a casino on that land.

However, depending on the position taken by the Clinton administration, Gov. John Engler, who opposes gambling, may have veto power over transferring non-reservation land to tribes, according to a congressional source.

Meanwhile, officials in Highland Park, which is surrounded by Detroit, are also considering an Indian casino proposal. In November, Highland Park voters supported a referendum on casino gambling.

And officials in Windsor, Canada, located across the river from Detroit, are choosing a developer to build a casino. Construction could begin in September.

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