Your Source For Michigan Gaming News

Since 1997, the Michigan Gaming website has been a comprehensive resource regarding gaming in the state of Michigan. This site is an RMC Ventures, LLC publication, with contributions by the original creators of the site, Attorney David Waddell and Gaming Analyst Robert Russell, and additional contributions by J.J. Burchman, and Blaine DeGracia.

Mr. Waddell and Mr. Russell are also associated with Regulatory Management Counselors, P.C., which proactively assists clients in managing regulatory issues in an effort to maximize company profits and avoid legal problems.

Volume 22, Issue 36

December 9, 2016

Printable Version


Four Winds South Bend Casino Begins Construction

On December 7, 2016, Four Winds CEO Frank Freedman revealed how big the South Bend casino will be by saying “Well the facility itself is going to be approximately 175,000 square feet; the gaming floor will be about 55,000 square feet. To put that in relative terms those of you that are familiar with New Buffalo, New Buffalo’s casino floor is about 140,000 square feet, so this will be about a third of that, a little bigger than a third of New Buffalo’s floor.”

The initial application for land in trust discussed an 18 story hotel with 500 rooms though, the phase one plans revealed by the Pokagon Band does not include a hotel of any size. As reported by WNDU, Tribal Chairman John Warren indicated that the application for land in trust sets the parameters for the maximum amount of development the tribe can do on the site.

“You know we have three other sites, we want them to complement each other, not feed off each other,” added Warren. “So I think this first phase is a very calculated way of testing the market.”

“There’s obviously business reasons they have to do this in a phased way, that’s how they did it in New Buffalo too,” said Mayor Pete Buttigieg, (D) South Bend. “But what we know that kind of revenue and some very serious jobs are coming from the get go.”

According to WNDU, the South Bend facility will have 1,800 electronic gaming machines which could translate to up to $2 million per year in payments to the city from the tribe. Level of payment depends directly on the number of machines. Due to the restriction of gaming action in South Bend to Class II bingo based games, however, the South Bend site will be the only Four Winds property without table games, and its electronic games will technically be sophisticated version of bingo.

“We wouldn’t have moved forward with the project if we thought it was an inferior product,” explained Freedman. “There’s casinos like Porch Creek, in Alabama that have literally thousands, 2,500 machines, Class II.”

Notably, the tribe is not able to move forward as a Class III facility (which would allow for typical slot machines and table games) because no state gaming compact has been negotiated with the state of Indiana. Any potential compact adopted in the future could change the class of games available in South Bend.

In addition to gaming, the Four Winds South Bend will feature three bars and restaurants including the Copper Rock Steakhouse and the Buffet. “This is a full blown casino, it’s a full sized casino, it’s not a satellite casino,” said Freedman. “This facility’s going to have almost 800 dining seats.”


Gun Lake Tribe's Fall Revenue Sharing Payments Exceed $6.9 Million

On December 7, 2016, The Gun Lake Tribe (“Tribe”) announced the details of its fall revenue sharing payments. According to the Tribe’s press release, the State of Michigan received $3,974,387, the local revenue sharing board received $1,823,054, and GLIMI, an economic development entity, received $1,192,316. Revenue sharing payments are distributed semi-annually under terms of the tribal-state gaming compact and the figures are calculated from electronic gaming revenues reported from April 1, 2016 to September 30, 2016.

“This revenue sharing distribution is the result of government-to-government cooperation for the benefit of all Michiganders,” said Scott Sprague, Chairman of the Gun Lake Tribe. “The state revenue sharing payments help to fund economic development projects beyond West Michigan, while the local revenue sharing payments is important for municipal services and public education.”

In May of 2007, the Tribe and the State of Michigan executed a gaming compact wherein the Tribe agreed to share a percentage of electronic gaming revenues with local and state governments. In July of this year, the Tribe and State announced a Partial Settlement Agreement to resolve an interpretation of the tribal-state gaming compact. The Agreement resulted in a portion of Gun Lake Casino state revenue sharing to be paid to GLIMI, which is overseen by the State and the Tribe’s economic development corporation, Gun Lake Investments. According to the Tribe, GLIMI was formed to pursue non-gaming economic development and job creation.

The state revenue sharing payments are dependent on the continued preservation of exclusive gaming rights within the Tribe’s competitive market area, which also includes statewide expansion of certain lottery games. The market area as defined by the gaming compact, includes the cities of Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Lansing, as well as the entire counties of Kent, Kalamazoo and Ingham, among others.

Additionally, the gaming compact prescribes, independent of gaming exclusivity, mandatory funding to local municipalities for:

· Costs incurred due to the operation of the casino;

· Public safety services;

· And replacement of tax revenue.

Gun Lake Casino opened in February 2011 and now employs more than 800 team members. The Gun Lake Tribe has now shared $86,627,347 with state and local governments over twelve distributions.


Groundbreaking Ceremony Marks Beginning of Ojibwa Casino Expansion

On December 6, 2016, Ojibwa tribal leaders and Marquette community members gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony of the casino expansion project. According to, the investment totals  $40 million, with $6.5 million being used for Baraga Ojibwa Casino renovations and the remaining $33.5 million allocated for the Marquette Ojibwa Casino to create an almost entirely new facility. The Marquette project will include a new 1,200 seat entertainment venue, a doubled gaming floor, and new restaurants and hotel rooms.

“It’s really a great opportunity for Marquette,” said Don Wren, the General Manager of Baraga & Marquette Ojibwa Casinos. “We’ll be able to take this facility, and market to people that are away from here. People that are looking at Marquette as a possible destination site, now have something to come to. It’s not just a casino anymore, it’ll be a multi-functioning facility.”

Tribal leaders are also excited by the opportunities from the Ojibwa expansion.

“For the Indian community, much of the revenue from casinos is used for governmental services,” said Warren Christian Swartz Jr., President of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC). “The community is used to a number of governmental services that we have. We’ve got the Tribal Police, we’ve got our own Tribal Court, and we’ve got a health department, so this additional revenue is going to help us continue to provide those services to our community members.”

The casino expansion is scheduled to open September of 2018, but reports that developers expressed hope to be able to open the doors even sooner and that it is their goal to make sure the Marquette casino continues to stay open throughout construction.


Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Contributes $878,424 to Local Governments

On December 9, 2016, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians (“LRBOI”) announced a contribution of $878,424 to the Manistee County Local Revenue Sharing Board (“LRSB”). According to LRBOI, this second payment of 2016 brings the total amount of local revenue sharing payments to $32,147,224 since the casino opened in 1999. The first contribution of this year, made in June, was for $710,408.

The payment figure is derived from two-percent of the slot revenues over the last six months from the Tribe’s Little River Casino Resort. Biannual payments to the LRSB are a part of the gaming compact and amendment agreed upon between the LRBOI and the State of Michigan. The LRSB used the funds to reimburse local units of government for costs due to the casino, such as law enforcement and emergency services, and to provide a payment in lieu of property tax. Additional funds are distributed among local governments and schools in the area.

In the first cycle of 2016, the LRSB considered 20 grant applications and was able to grant revenues to each of them, including:

· $23,100 to Manistee County Firefighters Association for partial funding to properly outfit a training facility.

· $20,150 to Medical Care Facility to purchase and install cameras and recording equipment to monitor all entrances and exits at the facility.

· $9,000 to Cleon Township Fire Department for the purchase of refurbished hydraulic extraction equipment components.

· $9,000 to Bear Lake Township Fire Department for partial funding to purchase 12 SCBA MSA carbon fiber bottles.

· $7,300 to Manistee County District Health Department for partial funding to upgrade the security system for the health department office.

· $7,000 to Cleon Township Fire Department for the purchase of firefighter protective equipment replacement components.

· $5,782 to Manistee Township Fire Department for personal protective equipment.

· $5,000 to Casman Alternative Academy for partial funding to purchase upgraded lighting around the property.

· $5,000 to Manistee County 19th Circuit Court – Family Division for funding a juvenile diversion program.

· $5,000 to Manistee Fire Department for partial funding to be used as matching funds for a grant from FEMA in the Aid to Firefighters category.

 “Tribal gaming continues to provide a positive economic impact to both the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and our local community,” said Tribal Ogema Larry Romanelli. “We are pleased to see how the revenues benefit both our Tribe and our neighbors.”

The three members of the LRSB include representatives from Manistee County, the City of Manistee and Manistee Township. Additionally, in accordance with the state gaming compact and amendment, the Little River Band has paid the state of Michigan more than $85 million for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.


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