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Michigan Supreme Court decision opens door to potential additional casino developments6 June 2007
The Michigan Supreme Court recently released an opinion in the case of Taxpayers of Michigan Against Casinos (TOMAC) v. State of Michigan, reversing a lower court ruling stating an amendatory provision contained in the compact at issue violated the separation of powers clause of the Michigan Constitution. This decision makes it clear that the Michigan Legislature can constitutionally delegate authority to the governor to negotiate and enter into amendments to the compacts between tribal governments and the state of Michigan.
From a practical standpoint, what this decision means is that a provision in four of the compacts that allows the governor to negotiate and enter into amendments to the compacts is constitutional, and the governor had, and has the authority to amend the compacts without additional legislative action.
Currently, four tribes have compacts which permit the governor to negotiate amendments. The four tribes are the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians (Victories Casino, Petoskey), the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians (soon to open Four Winds Casino, New Buffalo), the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians (Little River Casino, Muskegon), and the Nottawaseppi Huron Potawatomi (which is working on a casino development in Battle Creek).
The Court's decision involved a specific fact pattern involving the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians. An amendment made to the compact with the Little Traverse Band authorized the tribe to pursue opening a second casino. The tribe currently operates one casino in Petoskey, and will soon be replacing its current casino facility with a new building at a different location nearby. In the past, the tribe has discussed the possibility of opening a casino in, or near the Village of Mackinaw City. Currently, the tribe has indicated it does not have an immediate plan for expansion. Instead, it is focused on the grand opening of its new $145 million casino facility, The Odawa Casino Resort in Petoskey, scheduled for June 20, 2007.
The new casino features 50,000 square feet of gaming space, featuring a slot floor with 1,500 machines, 30 gaming tables, and two floors of entertainment options. The new casino will have over 1000 employees and has brought an additional 500 jobs to the area.
With the state's ongoing budget problems, and with casino gaming being so popular in this state, the long term importance of this decision could be additional casino facilities under negotiated amendments to compacts with the four tribes. The state's success in defending the challenge is a major blow to anti-casino groups that continue to try, in every way possible, to impede additional casino development.
June is Horse Racing Month
To honor Michigan's 74 years of horse racing, Governor Jennifer Granholm has declared June as "Michigan Horse Racing Month."
In a press release issued by the Office of Racing Commissioner (ORC), Racing Commissioner Christine White commented on the importance of recognizing the industry.
"Horse racing is a Michigan tradition that makes an important contribution to our state's economy," said White. "It's a very labor intensive business, requiring hard work and dedication from the breeders, stable workers, grooms, trainers, drivers and jockeys. Michigan Horse Racing Month is a great way to show appreciation for the tireless efforts of everyone involved in the industry."
Several events are scheduled for "Michigan Horse Racing Month" including the debut of the ORC's new Web site (www.michigan.gov/horseracing) and e-newsletter, as well as several events and promotions at the state's various tracks.
Michigan currently has six licensed pari-mutuel racetracks, including four harness tracks (Hazel Park, Northville, Swartz Creek and Jackson), one thoroughbred track (Muskegon) and one mixed breed racetrack (Mt. Pleasant).
Historical information on Michigan's horse racing industry can be found at ( www.michigan.gov/hal). For more information about Michigan horse racing, visit ( www.michigan.gov/horseracing).
copyrighted material written for and appeared exclusively in The Press of Atlantic City