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Michigan Ballot Initiative Update

As of Wednesday, June 20, 2012, Citizens for More Michigan Jobs (“CMMJ”) stated that the group will have enough signatures to place its expanded gaming ballot initiative on the November ballot. CMMJ has put forth a ballot initiative for a constitutional amendment that, if passed, would authorize eight more commercial casinos to be operated within the state.

In an interview with MLive, CMMJ Spokeswoman Emily Gerkin Palsrok commented on the signature gathering process, stating, “I don’t know where we’re at, but I know we’re well over what we needed.” The group has stated the constitutional amendment would increase local and state tax revenues, provide jobs in the various targeted local communities, as well as provide an increase in funding to state education and public service providers.

The current proposal is calling for eight casinos to be built in downtown Detroit and Grand Rapids, Romulus, Pontiac, Dewitt Township, Birch Run, Clam Lake Township, and Clinton Township. In addition, the amendment would change the wagering tax rate and distribution process.

Under current law, the three existing commercial casinos in Detroit are subject to a 19% wagering tax, with 8.1% of the tax allocated to the state and 10.9% of the tax allocated to the City of Detroit. If passed, the proposed amendment would raise the tax to 23% on gross receipts which would be allocated as follows: 30% to K-12 schools throughout the state, 20% to municipal governments for fire and police services, 20% to the local units of government where the casino is located, 20% to the county in which the casino is located, 5% to the state for the purposes of road repair and construction, and 5% to the state for gambling addiction prevention services. Casinos located in the City of Detroit, including the three existing commercial casinos, would also be subject to the 23% tax rate but would require wagering taxes to be distributed as follows: 60% to police and fire services in the city, 20% to K-12 schools throughout the state, and 20% to the state to fund road repairs and construction

Protect MI Vote, a group that is opposed to the ballot initiative, has argued that the proposal would eliminate local communities’ right to vote on the casinos and has begun running a targeted campaign against the ballot initiative. FireKeepers Casino has also announced its opposition, holding an informational meeting on June 7, 2012 that detailed its arguments against the measure, stating that the amendment language could allow for unsuitable parties to enter the industry and that it would circumvent local communities right to vote on expanded gaming efforts.

Along with CMMJ, a separate ballot initiative is being promoted by the group Michigan is Yours that would authorize seven additional commercial casinos across the state. Michigan is Yours has attempted to place similar initiatives on the ballot in past years, but failed to gather enough signatures in each attempt. The Michigan is Yours ballot initiative would authorize commercial casinos in Lansing, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Romulus, Benton Harbor, Saginaw, and Mount Clemens but would not change the wagering tax structure.

 

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