The tribe is anxiously awaiting a federal appeals court decision on whether the U.S. Department of the Interior will be allowed to take the former Ampro manufacturing facility into trust for renovation as a 147-acre casino.
On Feb. 23, a federal court dismissed a lawsuit brought by Michigan Gambling Opposition challenging the decision to place the land into trust. The suit primarily alleged that the government had not properly examined the environmental impacts of the casino. MichGo, an anti-gaming group founded by
According to John Wernet, Granholm’s legal counsel on Indian affairs, the governor has been negotiating with the tribe since early in her first term. Over the past year, negotiations picked up steam, even more so with the recent decision by U.S. District Court Judge John Garret
While opponents still have hope for the appeal, the governor was convinced that the tribe would eventually succeed, Wernet said.
“We felt it would be best to enter into the compact when the trust was imminent,” he said. “The tribe will prevail, and once the land is taken into trust, the state has very little leverage.”
The appeals court recently heard two similar cases and sided with the government on both. Last year, it dismissed a lawsuit against Dowagiac’s Pokagon Band of Pottawatomi Indians and the forthcoming Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, a nearly identical case involving a
Once the land is taken into trust, the state has only 180 days to negotiate a compact. If a compact were not settled in that time, the tribe has the option — although not a guaranteed right — to petition the Department of Interior to allow Class III gaming without a compact, as it recently did for a tribe in
One of the principal concerns of the state was preventing situations like those that have occurred with the majority of the 11 previous tribal-state gaming compacts.
In 1993, Gov.
All but one of the original seven tribes stopped those payments by 1999 as the state opened up gaming to additional four tribes, and later the three
The compact the governor agreed to sign last week is quite different from the earlier compacts. The tribe would share 8 percent to 12 percent of its slot machine revenues with the state, depending on gross revenue.
The tribe will have an exclusive regional zone that consists of nine counties from Allegan and
The tribe will also share 2 percent of its slot machine revenue with local governments. The revenue would be distributed by a local revenue sharing board consisting of three tribal representatives and three local governmental representatives.
The compact also mandates a detailed and rigorous regulatory structure. Stipulations include:
- No patrons or employees under 21 years of age in gaming areas of the Gun Lake Casino.
- Casino to comply with Michigan Employment Security Act and Worker’s Disability Compensation Act. Tribe will comply with all applicable state laws regulating the sale and taxation of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products.
- State regulatory oversight of Tribe’s gaming records, and other relevant records related to enforcement of the compact.
The compact, which will be in place for 20 years, voids the Engler negotiated compact which the House and Senate approved in 2002. Since then, the Senate has voted to remove its approval.
The legislature will now have to approve the compact for it to take effect, pending the land being taken into trust.
“We’re very happy that we’ve come to terms that we can agree on,” said
The decision angered many
Representative Michael Sak, the Grand Rapids Democrat, was disappointed that the governor did not engage the legislature in regards to the compact negotiations.
“It is a controversial issue, and it is unfortunate that discussion did not occur,” he said.
Granholm spokesman Liz Boyd said that the state followed the same process as the previous compacts in the state, and most of those in the country, which preserved the state’s separation of powers by presenting the compact to the legislators only after it was negotiated.
“We are disappointed the Governor chose to ignore state sovereignty and negotiated prematurely with the Gun Lake Tribe,” said