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Casino gambling won't stop this weekend, despite the expiration of some tribal gaming compacts

Know when to hold them, know when to fold them

Casinos operated by six Native American tribes in Michigan will continue to operate even though the gaming compacts that allow them expire this weekend.    That will gives the state and the tribes more time to negotiate new compacts.

The agreements were originally made 20 years ago.

John Wernet is the legal counsel for the Sault Sainte Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.   He says casinos are a critical source of revenue for the tribes.

“We don’t have a tax base. We don’t have other substantial sources of income,” says Wernet, “The tribes are very dependent on the casinos to support education, law enforcement, tribal government – you know, the whole variety of governmental services that tribes try to provide to their citizens.”  

The compacts cover half the Michigan tribes that operate casinos.

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration has notified the tribes the casinos will continue to operate under the existing terms while discussions on new agreements go ahead.

“The casinos have been part of the fabric in these communities for 20 years now,” says Dave Murray, the governor’s spokesman, “They’re job providers. There’s an economic boon to those communities. It’s important to keep them, to have them there. We have a good relationship with the tribes. We want to see them continue. Everyone is optimistic that will happen.”

A major sticking point in the talks is that the governor wants the tribes to resume paying a percentage of their revenues to the state.   Revenue sharing was part of the original gaming compacts.  But that ended when the state authorized the Detroit casinos and signed gaming compacts with other tribes.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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