Gun Lake sets casino groundbreaking ceremony

BRADLEY, Mich. – Less than a month after the Interior’s Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Larry EchoHawk signed a proclamation officially declaring the existence of the Gun Lake Tribe’s 147-acre reservation, the tribe scheduled a ground-breaking ceremony for its long awaited Gun Lake Casino.

The event will take place on Sept. 17 for Phase 1 of the project. Because of the unsettled economy, the tribe is treading cautiously. Phase 1 will be approximately half the size of the initially planned project – an 83,000-square-foot facility costing $157 million.

“Given the current economic conditions, it makes sense for us to build this project in phases,” said tribal chairman D.K. Sprague. “This will allow us to bring jobs to our area sooner, and we look forward to planning and developing the next phase as the economy recovers.”

The original project was slated to take 15 to 18 months to construct, but the smaller Phase 1 plan will be completed in 10 to 12 months, bringing urgently needed jobs and economic activity, and revenue sharing to a Michigan area badly hit by high unemployment and the economic downturn.

Phase I Details • 1,200 slot machines

• 36 table games

• Entertainment lounge

• Casino bar

• 600 direct jobs

• 1,000 additional indirect jobs

• 750 construction jobs over the course of construction

• 10 – 12 month construction period

• $30 million annual vendor spending on goods and services

• 60,000 new guest stays at area hotels annually

• $4.4 million additional revenues for area hotels

• 83,000-square-foot facility

• $157 million facility

• 300-seat 24/7 restaurant

• Food court with three outlets

• Approximately $9.1 million annually to state revenue sharing fund

• Approximately $2.3 million annually to local revenue sharing board

“Even though we are starting with a smaller facility than we originally envisioned, it will still be a high quality facility with excellent customer services in a warm and friendly environment,” Sprague said.

The facility will include a casino with 1,200 slot machines and 36 table games, an entertainment lounge, a casino bar, a 300-seat 24/7 restaurant and food courts with three outlets.

Phase 1 will create 500 direct jobs and 1,000 indirect jobs. It will provide 750 construction jobs over the course of the 10 to 12 month construction period.

The tribe estimates the new facility will generate $20 million annually in vendor spending on goods and services and that area hotels will benefit by an additional $4.4 million from 60,000 new guest stays annually.

The tribal-state compact will add approximately $9.1 million annually to the state’s revenue sharing fund and about $2.3 million annually to the local revenue sharing board.

Gun Lake Casino will be operated by the tribe’s management partner, MPM enterprises LLC, owned by an affiliate of Station Casinos, Inc., and private investors from Michigan.

“We are absolutely elated that good career opportunities for our tribal citizens and our friends and neighbors are finally within reach,” said John Shagonaby, CEO of MBPI, Inc., the tribe’s economic development arm.

The 147-acre land in Wayland Township, Allegan County, Michigan, was proclaimed as the tribe’s initial reservation under the authority of the Indian Reorganization Act of June 18, 1934.

Gun Lake’s formal name is the Match-E-Be-Nash-E-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians.

The tribe was landless when it received federal acknowledgment in 1998. It spent the next 10 years fighting various anti-Indian and anti-Indian casino groups’ attempts through state and federal courts to prevent the Interior Department from taking the 147 acres into trust.

Gun Lake was the last tribe to receive land into trust under the Indian Reorganization Act before the U.S. Supreme Court issued its controversial Carcieri ruling last winter that the Interior secretary does not have authority to take land into trust for tribes that were not federally recognized at the time of the IRA in 1934.

The National Congress of American Indians and the United South and Eastern Tribes are seeking a congressional “fix” to the high court’s ruling. The Interior Department also supports that initiative.