The Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort in Mount Pleasant, Michigan is owned by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. It's one of 20 gaming operations run by an Indian tribe in the state.

Michigan Voters Have Lots of Decisions to Make On Election Day; Expanding Gaming Won’t Be One of Them

Alysa Landry

Several states this Election Day will consider expanding their gaming industries, but voters in Michigan, where the American Indian vote tops one percent of the total, will not cast ballots about gaming.

A proposal that would have locked into the state constitution eight new, non-Indian casinos, was struck from the ballot in September. The state Supreme Court rejected the proposal because it failed to outline the changes it would make to existing law, which was approved by voters in 1996.

Michigan law limits the number of non-Indian casinos to three, all of which are in Detroit.

Investors proposed new, non-Indian casinos in Detroit, Romulus, Clinton Township, Pontiac, Lansing, Birch Run, Grand Rapids and Cadillac.

Protect MI, a coalition of citizens, including elected officials and representatives of tribal casinos, issued a statement in September applauding the court’s decision.

“Voters owe the Michigan Supreme Court their thanks today for not rolling the dice with Michigan’s future,” Protect MI spokesman John Truscott said. “We have said all along that this proposal was poorly written and a terrible piece of public policy for the state. Thankfully, the court recognized that as well. We hope this day is remembered the next time a group of secretive investors attempt to guarantee casino and liquor licenses in our constitution.”

The ballot proposal would have eliminated the requirement for a statewide and local vote on future casino gaming expansions. It also attempted to bypass state liquor laws by granting automatic liquor licenses to casino properties without approval from the Liquor Control Commission.

Indian tribes in Michigan operate 20 casinos and bingo halls.

The proposal is not a new one, said Fred Woodhams, spokesman for the Michigan Department of State. Detroit investors previously pushed for a bigger piece of the gaming profit by increasing the number of non-Indian casinos.

“These things usually become constitutional issues,” Woodhams said.

Voters will decide on six other proposals, including one that would establish a standard for renewable energy. Under that proposal, electric utilities would be required to provide at least 25 percent of their annual retail sales from renewable energy sources. The companies would not be allowed to increase utility fees by more than one percent per year.

Another proposal would allow the governor to appoint an emergency manager to mitigate in times of state financial crisis. That manager would act in place of local government officials to reorganize government or modify employee contracts.

Additional proposals seek to require a two-thirds majority of the state House and Senate or a statewide vote of the people in order for the state to impose new or additional taxes; and seek to require voter approval before expending funds or resources on international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles.

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