Monday, September 26, 2011

Michigan Petition Drive could let voters approve expanded gaming in Detroit, Port Huron and elsewhere

Revamped petition drive seeks Port Huron casino

by Cliff Schrader, WGRT-FM 102.3

…Our casino quest appears to be in limbo until the Bay Mills Indian Community's July 2012 federal court date. But the truth is there's a war going on.

The court case of Bay Mills vs. the State of Michigan and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians regarding Bay Mills' Vanderbilt casino is understood to hold our future. What happens with Vanderbilt determines the fate of Port Huron's casino.

If Chief U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney, the same judge who closed the Vanderbilt casino in a preliminary injunction earlier this year, rules against Bay Mills, Port Huron's casino bid likely dies.

Just weeks ago, Bay Mills sued Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, declaring the land in Vanderbilt is tribal land and the state has no say in their casino operation.

At the same time, the state appears to have upped the ante. It amended its complaint against Bay Mills by adding Bay Mill's tribal elected officials and gaming commissioners as defendants.

It appears state Attorney General Bill Schuette is putting individual tribal leaders' necks on the chopping block. I was told the state believes it will be able to criminally prosecute individual tribal leaders for violating Michigan's gaming laws.

So much for the secret deal local good old boys had this community believing was cut with the attorney general's office. After some minor push back, the attorney general was supposed to cut a deal to let Bay Mills have the Port Huron casino site as a settlement.

That proved to be nothing but smoke.

But Michigan Is Yours is back. The brainchild of the late Frank Stella, the campaign's aim is to jumpstart Michigan's economy.

In early 2010, Michigan Is Yours launched a petition drive to amend Michigan's Constitution to add seven new casinos. At first, Port Huron was on that list, but was bumped. Mount Clemens replaced us.

The drive needed 380,000 signatures by July 5, 2010, but failed. It was about 30,000 short, Billy said.

This time, Port Huron is back in the mix. Billy said new ballot language was approved last week by the Michigan's Bureau of Elections.

It reads: "An initiative petition to amend the Constitution of the State of Michigan by adding Section 43 Article IX to promote the economic development of the state; to authorize casino gaming at no more than seven casinos which shall be located in Grand Rapids, Lansing, Detroit, Romulus, Benton Harbor, Saginaw and Port Huron."

The new petition drive has until March 15 to collect 320,000 signatures -- 60,000 less than last time. Billy said Michigan Is Yours is well on its way to raising $20 million to make this happen.

While there is much in the fine print, the law will mandate at least 19% of adjusted revenues will go to Michigan ventures…
Read full column as originally posted

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