Plans for a modest 64-slot casino will be implemented by a northern Michigan tribe this fall when it breaks ground for the facility despite the thumbs down given by the local village council.
On October 16 Mackinaw City’s village council voted 4-3 against issuing a Class III license to the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians. Village approval is required for a Class III license and would have enabled table games such as craps, blackjack and roulette to be operated at the casino. Instead the tribe will build a less lucrative Class II casino which limits facilities to non-banked card games such as poker, pull-tabs and bingo. Approval is not required for a Class II license and slot machines are permitted, but run on a bingo format.
Last week’s vote by the Mackinaw City Village Council is the second rejection since 2003 when a tribal application to build a gambling facility north of the site, which was purchased by the tribe in 2012, was shot down. The tribe started moving money around in June to begin the casino construction process. Its existing Odawa Casino in Petoskey, which is approximately 49 minutes south of Mackinaw City and offers full-fledged casino gaming, is also part of a 5-year economic development plan that includes a new 130-room hotel for the latter.
Located adjacent to tribal trust lands, the tribe will build its new casino on the site of the defunct Thunder Water Falls Water Park which has been closed since October 2012. A renegotiated gaming compact, part of a 2007 Michigan Supreme Court ruling, allows the tribe to operate a second casino in Emmet County.
Had the tribe been given the green light for a Class III facility it would have had to give the local government 2 percent of slot revenues and 6 percent to the state in place of normal property taxes. However, it will not have to share any of its gaming revenues under the current plans for a Class II casino.
Tribal plans for the 5,000 square-foot casino include an on-site RV park to be constructed in 2017. The only Class II casino in Michigan, which is similar to Madison, Wisconsin’s DeJope-Ho-Chunk casino, will break ground in November and is expected to open in May 2016.