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Gun Lake/state casino compact heads to Senate

LANSING, Mich. - The state House of Representatives approved a Class III gaming compact between the state and the Gun Lake Tribe Aug. 8, leaving one final legislative step in the process - approve by the state Senate.

The Democrat-led House vote was 63 - 41, the highest approval ever of a gaming compact in Michigan.

The resolution approves a compact negotiated by the Gun Lake Tribe, whose formal name is the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi, and Gov. Jennifer Granholm earlier this year.

''The tribe applauds the House for its resounding vote of support for the compact. This vote helps to ensure a very high level of regulation, and the most lucrative state revenue sharing agreement ever negotiated in Michigan,'' said tribal Vice Chairman John Shagonaby.

The tribe plans to build a $200 million casino with around 2,500 slots and 80 gaming tables. The casino will directly employ 1,800 people with a total average annual compensation package of $40,000, and provide an additional 3,100 indirect jobs and more than $20 million per year in direct purchases of goods and services from the area's businesses.

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Under the compact, the state would receive 8 percent of the casino's take from slot machines for the first $150 million, 10 percent between $150 million and $300 million, and 12 percent over $300 million. Local governments will receive 2 percent of the revenue.

The compact will require all casino patrons and employees to be 21 years of age or older, and will require the tribe to comply with applicable state laws regulating the sale and taxation of alcohol and tobacco products at the casino.

The local revenue sharing component of the compact will be overseen by a board comprised of three representatives each from the tribe and local governments. The compact sets up a list of priorities for the distribution of local revenue sharing funds, with public safety costs and the reimbursement of local tax revenues at the top of the list. After the priorities are paid, the board will distribute the remaining revenues go to local governments and school districts.

The tribe currently pays the township in which it is located $30,000 a year in property taxes.

If the Senate approves the compact, the tribe estimates it will pay local communities $3 million per year and the state about $115 million per year.

The tribe also awaits the resolution of an appeal by an anti-Indian group against Interior for its decision to take land into trust for the tribe. In a precedent-setting case in 2006, the appeals court tossed out an identical appeal against another Michigan tribe. Gun Lake anticipates the same outcome.