Saturday, January 03, 2009

Michigan Senator listed as "investor" in gambling casino syndication fund

It appears that Michigan State Senator Buzz Thomas (aka Samuel Thomas III) was apparently an investor in Atwater Entertainment Associates LLC (AEA), one of the founding interests – along with Marian Ilitch’s partners and Las Vegas-based Mandalay Resort Group (Circus Circus) – in Detroit’s MotorCity Casino.

Detroiters Herb Strather and Nellie Varner syndicated interests in AEA starting in 1995 in order to raise the capital they needed to push for the legalization of commercial gaming in Michigan (Proposal E – 1996) and lay the foundations for Detroit’s MotorCity Casino. Neither Strather or Varner were able to qualify for Michigan gaming licenses. Thomas, who was born in 1969 (1.28.69), would have been between 25 and 30 years old at the time he originally "invested" in the Atwater venture (AEA).

Thomas was first elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 1996 and served from 1997 – 2002. He’s represented Michigan’s 4th State Senate District (Detroit proper) since 2003.

In 2003, he introduced Senate Bill 0904 intended to limit the State Lottery’s use of casino-like games. Rather, in 2004, Detroit’s commercial casino interests promoted and passed a statewide ballot measure, Proposal 1, which requires a statewide vote in order to establish any new state lottery games utilizing "table games" or "player operated mechanical or electronic devices." According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network (, Marian Ilitch, representing MotorCity Casino, contributed $200.000 to support passage of Proposal 1 – at the time she was reportedly that casino’s largest individual shareholder.

Ilitch reportedly bought out the interests of AEA syndicators in 2005 when she acquired majority control in MotorCity Casino from Mandalay Resort Group/MGM Mirage. ( Ilitch Outbids Partners for MotorCity Casino)

According to a Web site set up for AEA investors to enable class-action lawsuits, Atwater Entertainment Associates LLC included entities known as Bay Ventures and BV Atwater. Strather’s wife Vivian Carpenter has served as Resident Agent for all three affiliates.

According to Crain’s Detroit, three-quarters of Atwater “investors” have also “invested” in AtMashpee LLC, another entity Strather syndicated to raise capitol need to bankroll a Cape Cod casino resort plan with the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian tribe of Massachusetts. Strather has also organized AtMashpee Notes LLC.

That tribe’s former chairman, Glenn Marshall, was under federal investigation and has agreed to plea guilty to federal campaign contribution violations and charges of fraud. Various Atwater/AtMashpee investors were identified blindly in the indicment documents. AtMashpee enabled Marshall's wrong doing by dumping $4 million into a hidden fund.

It's not clear whether Sen. Thomas was one of those Atwater investors who also helped to syndicate AtMashpee LLC.

According to a bio presented on Thomas' Web site, he has been:
    Called “A Rising Star” by both the Detroit News and Hotline, one of Michigan’s five “Key Technology Leaders” by the Detroit Free Press, an “Under-40 Political ‘Buzz’ Saw” by the Michigan Front Page, recognized as One Of Four Up-And-Coming Leaders by Savoy, a national magazine spotlighting young, dynamic African-Americans, and chosen “Most Dedicated Detroiter” and “Best Local Politician” by Real Detroit Magazine, State Senator Buzz Thomas (D-Detroit) is known not only as a political force but also as a dynamic legislative leader.
You may want to review these related posts: Michigan state senator from Detroit injures knee in fight outside bar
“Buzz” Thomas (Samuel “Buzz” Thomas III)
Official Web Site:
Senator Buzz Thomas

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