Native American Casino Issue Raging In Congress

Published on: February 15, 2008 

In the ever continuing battle to legalize gambling, Michigan lobbyists are bringing a multi million dollar fight to Congress in an effort to stall two new Indian casinos from coming to the state.  MGM Mirage, who just built a multi million dollar casino near Detroit, is against the bill that will bring in two more casinos in conjunction with the state’s Indian tribes.  They stand to lose quite a bit of money from the competition and have been some of the biggest monetary contributors to the lobbying effort.  They would be located away from the reservations and has already cleared the House Natural Resources Committee.  The bills that would allow these businesses to be established are pitting members of Congress against one another.

Part of the legislation involves a land claim by the Bay Mills Indian Community and the Sault S. Marie tribe that has been disputed for centuries.  If this dispute is settled and the land swapped between the tribes, two casinos will emerge, one near Detroit and one near Port Huron.  Both the state and local governments would earn share of the revenues and the businesses will open up thousands of jobs to a state that has been plagued with foreclosures and layoffs at the many automobile plants located there.

Both sides of the fence are arguing over the necessity of two more casinos in the area stating that the area is already saturated with them.  Currently, there are three casinos in Detroit and seventeen others around the state, all owned by Native American tribes.  The political pundits are claiming that the desire for this development is being stemmed by greed and a sham land purchase that the developers came up with and ‘sold’ to the tribes.

This bill, according to the states representatives, is not about off reservation gambling.  It is about a legitimate land claim that has been sitting on the books for quite some time.  Yet it is clear that other tribes may see it as precedence and insist on getting their piece of the gambling revenue pie.  The land claim must be looked at by the Interior Department who is against the casinos being built.  They feel that it would circumvent the ability to review the many different gambling agreements between the tribes and the states.  No matter what happens, over $700,000.00 has been given to congressional members from the many different lobbyist groups to fund the fights.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come down to someone getting scalped before the bill is passed or failed.

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