In a last-ditch effort, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) is asking Governor Rick Snyder to approve the relocation of the tribe’s Chocolay Township Ojibwa Casino to the former Marquette County Airport in Negaunee Township, as reported by UpperMichigansSource.com.
In December, the Baraga-based KBIC announced that this year’s ballot would include two multi-million dollar casino referendums, including money for the renovation of their Ojibwa Casino II in Chocolay Township in Michigan‘s Upper Peninsula. However, the tribe wanted to make a final attempt, in what has been a 15-year effort, to relocate the casino to a larger, more visible and centralized property on the 80-acres that were once home to the airport. The site is located between Negaunee and Marquette, off U.S. 41.
The U.S. Department of the Interior approved the relocation in late 2011, but KBIC’s proposal was rejected by Governor Snyder in June 2013. Had the proposal been approved, the Interior Department would have been able to acquire the land in trust for the tribe’s gaming purposes, according to The Mining Journal. At the time, Governor Snyder indicated he would be receptive to the idea if it were part of a bigger deal between the state and KBIC. In addition, any future agreement would include a requirement, which was not favored by the tribe, that taxes be levied by tribal businesses on every transaction with non-Native Americans.
Based on in-depth economic studies, KBIC wants to develop a major tourism entertainment destination where gaming would only be a part of the overall economic plan that according to the tribe would benefit the region. According to KBIC’s press release, the plans for the new facility have been modified to reflect that and now include a branded hotel and waterpark resort, chef-inspired restaurants, spa, salon, fitness center, golf course, conference center, five-star RV resort, retail outlets, entertainment venue, and gaming facilities that include a smoke-free room.
Back in 1999, KBIC purchased more than 50 acres for 1.4 million, while more than 500 acres were purchased by Peter O’Dovero, owner of property management company, O’Dovero Development and Associated Constructors, LLC. KBIC’s sole intent for the property was to relocate the Chocolay Township casino there.
KBIC said the move would create jobs for members of the surrounding community who are not affiliated with the tribe. Currently, 75 percent of the employees of Ojibwa Casino II are not members of the tribe. The tribe also said that the current 2 percent of revenue generated by Ojibwa Casino II that the local community receives would increase, as well as the 8 percent received by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The tribe anticipates that during the development of the complex at least 230 construction jobs would be created. Once completed, the facility would provide 200 new jobs, which would mean a total of 350 full-time positions, with another 100 part-time possible during the summer tourism season.
The tribe has asked that Governor Snyder provide an answer to its request on the proposed entertainment complex by April 22.