Lower Peninsula Up, U.P. Down In Michigan Tribal Casinos Annual Report

Posted on April 16, 2020

Michigan tribal casinos contributed more than $30 million to local governments and more than $54 million to the state from revenue sharing last year with both numbers slightly increasing from 2018.

In all, the increase of $1.58 million represented a 1.9% boost in their annual payments, which are dictated by their compacts with the state.

However, a deeper dive into the numbers from the annual report issued Wednesday by the Michigan Gaming Control Board shows two different stories on separate sides of the Mackinac Bridge.

Mixed Bag Of Numbers For Local Governments

The 12 tribes operating 23 tribal casinos across the state contribute 2% of their gross revenue from electronic gaming in lieu of paying local taxes to governments impacted by hosting tribal casinos.

The seven Lower Peninsula tribes, which operate 12 casinos, had revenue sharing grow 2.1%, an increase of $557,166 to local governments. The five Upper Peninsula tribes, which operate 11 casinos, had revenue sharing fall 6.2%, a decrease of $243,123 to local governments.

The biggest drop in revenue sharing was from the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, which operates five Kewadin Casinos in the U.P., reporting a 14.3% drop in disbursements, with $230,378 less doled out compared to the 2018 report.

Of the risers, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, which operates Odawa Casinos in Petoskey and Mackinaw City of the Lower Peninsula, had an 11.1% increase in revenue sharing, $110,180 more than last year.

In all, six of the tribes that operate casinos in Michigan showed growth in their revenue sharing payments with six having those outputs fall from 2018.

Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe Tops Michigan Tribal Casinos List Again

The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, which operates Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in Mount Pleasant and Saganing Eagles Landing Casino & Hotel in Standish, again contributed the most locally, with its 2% payment totaling $6.1 million.

It was the second straight year at the top of the list for the Saginaw Chippewa tribe after several years in lesser positions.

Before 2018, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians had led in revenue every year since 2013. That tribe operates three Four Winds Casinos in southwest Michigan and another in South Bend, Ind.

The Pokagon tribe was third in 2018, with its $5.7 million of contributions trailing the $5.9 million from the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, which operates FireKeepers Casino in Battle Creek.

Since 1994, Native American tribes have paid more than $527 million in revenue sharing to local units of government from casino operations.

Overall Growth For State, But One Payment Missing

Payments to the state’s Michigan Strategic Fund or Michigan Economic Development Corporation in those two-and-and-a-half decades have topped $869 million.

The $54 million from 2019 represented a 2.4% increase in payments from the six tribes that paid the state with a seventh, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, withholding its payments as they did in 2018.

The tribe, which paid $1.1 million as part of its 2% revenue share with local governments, did not return a request for comment from PlayMichigan about why they are withholding payments.

A federal judge ruled against the tribe in August in a four-year lawsuit against the state regarding reservation boundaries and autonomy issues.

A notice on the front page of the October issue of the tribe’s newspaper Odawa Trails states the tribe will appeal the case.

“And as our constitution promises, we will continue to approach this work in a constructive, cooperative spirit to preserve and protect our lands, resources and treaty rights,” the notice read, adding the tribal council voted 9-0 to appeal.

Sports Betting Could Help Negate COVID-19 Losses

In one year, the 2020 report will look plenty different.

For one, there will likely be no bets placed in April for any of the 23 casinos, which voluntarily closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All 23 tribal casinos closed in mid or late March with no definitive answer for when gaming will continue or what the state’s economy will look like when they do.

However, one positive could come in the form of sports betting this year at many tribal casinos.

Legalized Michigan sports betting started in March at Detroit’s three casinos and tribal casinos are exploring their own retail sportsbooks.

In addition, many have partnered with online gaming, mobile sportsbooks and online poker operators to increase their own revenue when those games are available, likely in early 2021.

Matt Schoch Avatar
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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He's also the host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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