October 31, 2014

Michigan Supreme Court orders casino proposal off the ballot

By Kevin Bunch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com
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LANSING — A proposal to expand casino gaming in Michigan was ordered off the November ballot by the Michigan Supreme Court Sept. 5, due to the fact it would circumvent the state’s Liquor Control Commission in providing liquor licenses to new casinos. Furthermore, the court determined the proposal did not properly disclose that change.

Had the constitutional amendment been approved by voters on the November ballot, construction would have been approved for eight more casinos in the state, and it would have limited input and approval for future casinos to only the local community rather than letting the entire state vote.

Furthermore, tribal spokesman Frank Cloutier told the Independent in June additional casinos would have hurt revenues at existing casinos, and could have drastically reduced the amount of funds given out to local schools and municipalities by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe under its 2-percent gaming revenue grants. The grant amounts are based on the revenue brought in the tribe’s casinos.

The tribe is part of the Protect MI Vote coalition that has opposed casino expansion in the state since its inception in 2004. Cloutier said he believed the state economy would not be able to handle additional casinos; furthermore, he said the proposed amendment would have undermined the state’s ability to regulate casino gaming.

“As part of the Protect MI Vote coalition, we’re very happy with the judge’s decision,” Cloutier said. “In our argument we pointed out that the Liquor Control Commission and the Gaming Control Board would be nonexistent.”

“At that point Proposal 1 (of 2004), which gave local units of government and community members the right to vote on gaming expansion — this would have negated it,” he added.

The proposal backers, including the Committee for More Michigan Jobs, are hoping to try again in 2014, Cloutier said. The backers have said the initiative could have raised $300 million in tax revenues and created as many as 16,000 new construction jobs.

Cloutier said the tribe has been calling on the state to clarify which agency has the authority to determine the constitutionality of ballot proposals. He said the state board of canvassers currently ratifies petitions, but it is unclear if the board has the authority to deny them on constitutional grounds, or if that authority belongs to the district courts, or the state Supreme Court.

Local municipalities, including Lincoln Township and the city of Standish, opposed the ballot proposal because of the expected loss in grant funding from the tribe.

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