Last week voters in Michigan’s Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in the Upper Peninsula began to decide whether to invest $40 million on casino projects.
Four tribal members must be elected, the same as every year, but this year the ballot also includes two multi-million dollar casino referendums. Polling was held at the Harvey Community Center and on Thursday Marquette-area tribal members began voting early. Members were asked if an estimated $28 million should be spent by the tribe on a new casino and hotel, which would be built next door to the current Ojibwa Casino in Baraga on M-38. The second proposal that tribal members in Marquette voted on was whether $12 million should be invested in new casino facilities in Marquette in addition to renovating the existing casino space.
Neither proposal would require that gaming be interrupted during construction, according to tribal CEO Larry Denomie. The Big Bucks Bingo Hall adjacent to the Baraga casino would be torn down. The building would be replaced with a 75-room hotel and a new casino that has 25 percent more gaming space, according to the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette. Hopefully that would be completed by the spring of 2017 so that the existing casino and hotel could be torn down. That space would then be used for potential future development and additional parking.
Hopefully also by spring 2017, in Marquette a new casino with an additional 25 percent more space would be built as an addition to the existing Ojibwa Casino. Upon completion the existing casino would be renovated into a conference center. Even though currently the casino in Harvey in Marquette County nearly triples the amount of revenue the Baraga casino brings in, there are no proposals for hotel facilities there. However, a project study that was done accounts for room for a hotel sometime in the future.
Over the past several years the majority of the tribal government’s members have realized the need for upgrades to the aging casinos, but deciding on how much to spend and how to go about it has yet to be settled during the many debates. Jennifer Misegan, tribal council Vice-President, encouraged voters to show support for the current proposals Misegan said that she was disappointed that they aren’t able to afford everything they wanted, but that she is “in favor of doing something for the casinos.” Misegan said that unlike a proposal last year that tribal members voted down, she’s comfortable with the current proposals because they are backed by a feasibility study conducted by Global Market Advisors.