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Michigan House Considers Resolution Calling for a New Tribal Casino

11 July 2001

On June 26, 2001, Representative Larry DeVuyst (R-Alma) introduced House Resolution 167, which seeks to encourage Governor John Enlger to negotiate a Class III Gaming Compact with the Gun Lake Band. The Band has announced plans to have land taken into trust for a casino in Wayland, Michigan, a small resort community in Allegan County, which is located between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. With Grand Rapids being only second to the City of Detroit when it comes to population base, it is an extremely attractive location to construct a casino.

The Gun Lake Band, also known as Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish, has announced plans to build a casino and entertainment resort in Allegan County, that would rival Mt. Pleasant's Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in size. The proposed tribal casino resort would include an 180,000 square foot gaming facility, a buffet restaurant to seat 300 and a 300-room hotel. The resort plans include a 125-seat coffee shop, 150-seat steakhouse, golf course, and 200-seat sports bar. Tribal officials reported the casino would benefit the county economically.

- The casino is projected to bring in 2.9 million visitors a year and more than $160 million in annual revenue.

- Tourists will spend $31.2 million outside the casino for things such as food, beverages, lodging and retail.

- The casino will employ 1,554 people and create at least 4,301 casino-related jobs in the Allegan area, which includes parts of neighboring counties.

- The State would get $10.5 million in revenue and local governments would split $2.6 million based on a Tribal-State Gaming Compact between the State the Tribe.

The Tribe stated that after Allegan County lost its biggest employer, Ampro, a company which made outdoor products, jobs have been badly needed. However, before the tribe can begin construction of the project it must: 1) negotiate a compact with Governor John Engler, 2) gain the support of Michigan's Legislature, and 3) get the land accepted into trust by the federal government.

Resolution 167 was referred to the House Regulatory Reform Committee for a hearing. After two hours of discussion, the Committee voted unanimously to pass the Resolution out of Committee. Now the Resolution is pending before the entire Michigan House of Representatives.

Earlier this year on February 15, Representative Barb Vander Veen (R-Allendale) introduced an opposing Resolution calling for no further tribal compacts. Representative Vander Veen's Resolution, 6, seeks to oppose the approval of any new Tribal-State Compacts until certain federal and state lawsuits are settled. In February, this anti-compact Resolution was referred to House Committee on Gaming and Casino Oversight. It was part of hearing discussions in March, but despite two days of hearings on the Resolution no action was taken.

The House Regulatory Reform Committee's vote to refer Resolution 167 to the Full House for discussion is the first step necessary for the Gun Lake Band to gain the support of the Legislature. However, the Gun Lake Band will also probably need to have the Senate adopt a similar Resolution in order to pressure the Governor to move from his anti-compact position. In 1998, Governor Engler committed, in writing, to West Michigan legislators that he would not negotiate any further compacts with tribes, specifically including the Gun Lake Tribe. The Governor has clearly and repeatedly stated that unless both chambers of the Legislature approve a resolution supporting compact negotiations he will not move forward. All indications are that the Band will face some stiff opposition in the Senate.

Yet, Tribal supports remain very optimistic that with a Resolution from the House, the process will move forward. Notably, three of Governor Engler's Mt. Pleasant friends and supporters are promoting the casino project on behalf of the Tribe. Politics clearly make for strange bedfellows. Stay tuned for further developments.

David Waddell
David Waddell is an attorney for Regulatory Management Counselors, P.C. (RMC), which assists businesses in navigating the legislative, regulatory and licensing systems governing Michigan’s commercial and tribal casino industries. He is the co-author of The State of Michigan Gaming Law Legal Resource Book and one of the founders of The Michigan Gaming Newsletter.

David Waddell Websites:

www.michigangaming.com
David Waddell
David Waddell is an attorney for Regulatory Management Counselors, P.C. (RMC), which assists businesses in navigating the legislative, regulatory and licensing systems governing Michigan’s commercial and tribal casino industries. He is the co-author of The State of Michigan Gaming Law Legal Resource Book and one of the founders of The Michigan Gaming Newsletter.

David Waddell Websites:

www.michigangaming.com