Less than six months after the Gun Lake Tribe opened the doors to the Gun Lake Casino, the tribe has distributed more than $2.5 million to state and local governments, making good on its long held promise to share its gaming revenue with its neighbors.
Tribal leaders and members of the newly formed Local Revenue Sharing Board (LRSB) met on June 2 for the happy occasion. The state received a check for $2,059,482 and the board received $514,871. The payments are made under the terms of the tribal-state compact and are based on Gun Lake Casino’s first two months of operation, which began in February.
D.K. Sprague, chairman of the Gun Lake Tribe announced the revenue-sharing distributions to the gathering of about 30 people.
“Many years ago we made a commitment to our neighbors to provide funds to help build a better community. Today we have followed through on our commitment and that marks another important milestone in our shared progress,” Sprague said.
The LRSB is responsible for establishing bylaws that govern the local distribution process. The tribal-state compact provides funding to reimburse municipalities for costs related to the operation of the casino, including public safety services, and to replace tax revenue. Other possible uses for local revenue sharing funds include funding for schools and civic organizations.
The payments were higher than expected, Roger VanVolkinberg, the Wayland Township supervisor and chairman of the LRSB told Wood TV. "Anything was a blessing, obviously," VanVolkinberg said. "Like I said, we kind of worked off estimated numbers, so all along, my estimate of a $200,000 check to start was great in my mind. So, to see this one come through – I'm almost speechless, to be honest with you." The $514,871 check he received on behalf of the LRSB represented 2 percent of the casino’s slot earnings while the $2,059,482 check to the state represented 8 percent of the earnings from the electronic games.
“The local community will benefit greatly from these much needed funds provided by the tribe. This will allow area municipalities to improve public safety and infrastructure services to make life better for all residents,” VanVolkinberg said.
The state revenue sharing payments are made to help the economic development and job creation efforts of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Gun Lake spokesman James Nye said. These payments depend on the preservation of exclusive gaming rights within the tribe’s competitive market area which includes the cities of Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Lansing and the entire counties of Kent, Kalamazoo and Ingham, among others, Nye said.
The tribe has earned nearly $26 million on electronic games alone, excluding table games, drinks and food, in the four months since the casino has been open. The $157 million, 87,000-square-feet casino is less than half the size originally planned. The original Phase 1 included 2,500 slot machines; that number is now around 1,400. The plan was scaled down because of the downturn in the economy, but the tribe hopes to get back to the original Phase 1 at some point in the next few years. The casino currently employs more than 900 people.
In addition to the slot machines, the casino features 28 table games, a food court including, Tim Hortons, Johnny Rockets, Cold Stone Creamery and Villa Pizza, Sandhill Café, a 225-seat restaurant, along with bars, lounges, and live entertainment.
Gun Lake Casino is located off Exit 61 on U.S. 131, halfway between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. The Gun Lake Tribe, whose traditional name is the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians owns the casino. Gun Lake Casino is operated by the tribe’s management partner, MPM Enterprises, LLC, which is owned by an affiliate of Station Casinos, Inc. and private investors from Michigan. For more information, visit www.gunlakecasino.com.