'Michigan is Yours' Plan to Add 7 Casinos Using Poll for Signature Campaign
Backers Say New Gambling Will Pay Promise Scholarships, Pure Michigan Ads
June 11, 2011
By: Dave Rogers
The casino wars are on again!
A campaign is underway in mid-Michigan and statewide to drum up support for a plan to add seven more casinos in Michigan.
If voters approve, seven new Michigan corporate casinos would be allowed in Saginaw, Lansing, Detroit, Benton Harbor, Grand Rapids, Mount Clemens and Romulus or Port Huron.
The shadowy corporation behind the proposed measure is called C-My-Casino, Inc., of Warren, supposedly run by an attorney fronting for former Detroit Lion star Billy Sims.
Part of the pitch to gain the signatures needed to put the issue on the ballot is that these casinos will pay a greater share to the state that the existing 20 Native American casinos and three Detroit corporate casinos.
A telemarketing drive connected to this columnist about a week ago. The caller dangled the carrot that revenues from the casinos would cover the cost of the Michigan Promise Grant, supporting tuition for about 96,000 students in colleges and universities.
And, for good measure, according to the claim, the casinos would fully fund the "Pure Michigan" national advertising campaign for tourism!
The telephone pollster rapidly switched from mundane questions about politicians to specifics about casinos.
The caller made a pitch for my support by stating that the Native American casinos pay only five percent in state tax while these seven new casinos would pay 19 percent.
It quickly became obvious this was a campaign pitch, not a poll at all.
A group called "Michigan Is Yours" is trying to collect 300,000 signatures to get an issue on the November 2012 ballot.
Yahoo Blogger Marilisa Kinney Sachteleben calls the latest casino plan, that was rejected by voters in 2010, "a highly controversial ballot initiative."
As always, the specious idea that casinos are "economic development" is pushed.
Ted O'Dell of the Lansing Jobs Coalition and casino proponents say more legalized gambling will provide job opportunities. They note that casinos employ croupiers, hostesses, card dealers, bartenders, wait staff, kitchen staff, maintenance personnel, custodians, office staff, accountants, public relations, financial planners, and supervisory staff.
Advocates tout the claim that casinos boost tourism in a state as well. With the loss of industry jobs, the service and tourism sectors have become Michigan's largest employers.
Opponents say legalized gambling is unhealthy for the community. It promotes wasteful spending. It opens the door to other vices, such as drugs, money crimes and prostitution. They claim casinos diminish the community's reputation and attract a lower caliber of clientèle. Casinos, opponents say, actually cost communities money in increased crime rates and need for additional security.
The consensus among residents I have polled about casinos is that it "trashes the neighborhood," wrote Ms. Sachteleben, commenting: "Casinos only get into communities that have no other drawing feature. When a casino comes to town, respectable business leaves. However, some of the same people denouncing a casino in their backyard admit to visiting casinos in towns they visit or traveling to an area for the purpose of gambling."
The Lansing gambling establishment reportedly would be a Native American tribal casino. Tribal casinos are not governed by the Michigan Gambling Casino Board (MGCB). Under federal laws adopted in the mid-1980s, casinos are permitted in tribal areas as a way to help them generate income lost in territorial struggles.
The 'Michigan Is Yours' ballot initiative was the brainchild of
the late Frank D. Stella, a Detroit food service equipment businessman, who served on the boards of many medical, educational and cultural institutions.
"Mr. Stella had a vision to help turn Michigan's economy around by promoting its already rich natural resources, hospitality and tourism industries," says the group's website.
"The casino gaming industry, if done right, creates jobs and
economic development. Imagine, fully refunding the Michigan Promise Grant and largely contributing to the Pure Michigan campaign along with creating thousands of new local jobs and contributing millions of dollars into struggling local and state economies."
Supporters of the Michigan Is Yours Ballot Proposition held a news conference March 31 at the Romulus Athletic Center hosted by Dr. William Thompson of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, an Ann Arbor native. Attendees also included: Music Legend Morris Day, John Mason, "Voice" of the Detroit Pistons, Romulus Mayor Alan Lambert, Anthony Gray a native of Romulus a retired Northwest Airlines pilot and entrepreneur, and J. Michael McKay, Interim Chair of
Michigan is Yours Campaign, among other supporters.
Said Dr. Thompson: "The Michigan Is Yours Ballot Proposition is a positive plan for Michigan. Michigan already has casinos; it is time that they are effectively used to build the economy. The
expansion in this plan brings gaming to Detroit and Romulus in a specific way to enhance conventions and tourism, and does the same for outstate cities of Mount Clemens, Saginaw, Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Benton Harbor. The focus of tax revenues preserves vital programs that will suffer otherwise. This is a good plan for Michigan and I eagerly endorse the concept."
The proposal calls for a wagering tax of 19 percent that would provide much needed revenue for Michigan's struggling urban centers. After funding the Michigan Promise Grant and the Pure Michigan national advertising campaign, he remainder of the taxes would go to
local and county units of government where the casinos are located.
The petition language for the ballot initiative has been approved by the State Board of canvassers, giving the Michigan is Yours Campaign Committee approval to gather the necessary signatures to put the measure on the ballot in November 2012 or sooner. More information can be found at www.MichiganIsYours.org.
It seems though the plan is offering a bonanza in revenues that may not be achievable. This columnist would urge voters to be wary of the plan, at least until more is known about it.
Recent revelations by the Michigan attorney general that the Bay Mills Native American casino is not obligated to pay any share of revenue to the state indicates that a thorough review of the casino structure is urgently needed.
The tax rate on existing casinos should be increased if possible and a state policy should be established on the number and location of casinos before we approve any new gaming establishments.
If the claim by the Michigan Is Yours backers that present casinos pay only about five percent tax is true, this state needs to re-evaluate its gaming compacts. Pennsylvania casinos pay about 25 percent tax, plus a $50 million annual operating fee.
Since much evidence points to high social costs of casinos and a high suicide and bankruptcy rate from problem gaming, and the economic development value of casinos is questionable, a good hard look is certainly in order immediately.
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Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at email@example.com)
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