Wayland Casino Gains Support

April 27, 2005
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KALAMAZOO — Unlike many of Grand Rapids’ leaders, Donald Holecek, director of the Michigan Travel, Tourism and Recreation Center at Michigan State University and editor in chief of Michigan Tourism Business, is rooting for the a new casino in Allegan County.

“Look at seniors, they tend to have the leisure time and the income. They’re a great market,” he said. “You can see the impact of the senior market just by looking at the impact of the gaming industry. They drive that industry in the state.”

But those travel dollars are all leaving West Michigan.

“The rule of thumb is that they go to the nearest facility,” he said.

Going into this fall’s proposal for a constitutional amendment to require a statewide vote for all new gaming ventures, MSU conducted a study on the potential impact for the state of Michigan’s seven proposed casinos and racinos.

“We were looking at potential revenue of $2.5 billion,” Holecek said. “The lion’s share of that was generated by people 50 miles or so away from the facilities.”

On the heels of the U.S. Department of Interior’s announcement that it is prepared to take the Wayland casino site into trust, the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians of Michigan (commonly known as the Gun Lake Tribe) and the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce released two new studies that documented public support in the efforts to open a casino in Bradley, Mich.

Jonathan Taylor, president of the Taylor Policy Group Inc., and Tom Shields, president of Marketing Resource Group Inc. (MRG), both presented to the chamber and tribe.

Taylor presented a consulting report conducted on behalf of the tribe, which critiques a study by the Anderson Economic Group purporting to show net economic harms from a Wayland casino.

“Anderson’s forecast goes against common sense and systematic research, and it is not sufficiently rigorous to support any policy change, let alone overturn policies in favor of competition and Indian self-determination,” Taylor said.

Taylor’s report points to systematic after-the-fact research chartered by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission showing economic vitality is associated with casino introductions — in contradiction to Anderson’s forecast.

The report also states that the AEG forecast is wrong in ignoring in-state experience, other states’ histories, corroborating impact studies and after-the-fact data on its subject.

In the other study released, a poll of Michigan voters showed overwhelming support for the efforts by the Gun Lake Tribe to negotiate a gaming compact with the state, according to a recent public opinion survey conducted by MRG for the tribe and the Kalamazoo chamber.

The proposed compact would treat the Gun Lake Tribe equally with other Michigan tribes and allow them to open a casino on their tribal lands.

The poll reveals that 57 percent of respondents support the tribal casino, while only 20 percent oppose it. In addition, 58 percent believe that the proposed casino will have a positive impact on the regional economy, while only 14 percent say the impact will be negative.

One-third of all respondents believe it will have a very positive impact. Even in areas where Native American tribal casinos are currently located, respondents believe the casino will be good for the economy.

Across all demographic groups and geographic regions, including West Michigan where the casino would be located, most respondents support the Gun Lake Tribe.

The poll was conducted March 7-13 with 600 randomly selected registered voters in Michigan. It has a margin of error of 4 percent to 5 percent.

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