Ojibwa Casino Expansion In Marquette Comes At $50 Million Pricetag

Posted on September 19, 2019

The casino industry is all about putting “butts in the seats.” The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community has a plan to do that with an Ojibwa Casino expansion.

A new conference space, event center and slot machines comprise the Marquette casino additions. Between there and Baraga, the community is investing almost $50 million in hopes that investment will pay off.

Ojibwa Casino expansion set to open in December

The new convention center will accommodate up to 400 people. The event center has room for 1,200 people. The casino will add 500 slots, as well.

The Keweenaw Bay Community hopes that the effect those components have will be greater than the sum of their parts. They come on the heels of renovations at Baraga.

Earlier this year, the Ojibwa Casino in Baraga received renovations to its gaming floor, hotel and restaurant space. Coupled with a new ventilation system, the community spent almost $7 million.

Although the upgrades in Marquette will cost about six times as much, the objective is the same. It’s all about a plan to increase the customer base.

Keweenaw Community spends money to make money

The general manager of the Ojibwa Casino in Marquette, Larry Denomie, laid out the grand design. It’s already starting to pay off.

“We are getting calls regularly from large groups interested in renting the center to host their events,” Denomie said. “We are finalizing plans internally and will have contact information out so others seeking to host their events have a point of contact to work with.”

If the convention and event spaces sell well, that would help the community realize a quick return on its investment. The greater community has already started to benefit from the Keweenaw Community’s investment in local infrastructure, however.

New roads, tower and water system already completed

The Keweenaw Community invested $62,000 earlier this year to build a new water tower. The tower already provides water to the casino and adjacent residents of the Chocolay Township. That’s one of the communities the Ojibwa Casinos donated $1.31 million to, along with the state of Michigan.

In addition to providing water for residential use in the township, the new tower will provide access to the fire department, as well. Local technology companies erected antennas on the water tower, further monetizing it.

The last part of the infrastructure investment that the Keweenaw Community has made is for roadways around the casino. New curbs, gutters, pavement markings, rumble strips, signs and turning lanes were all paid for by the Keweenaw Community.

Although the total represents a significant investment for the Keweenaw Community, it’s more of a case of the casinos borrowing against future earnings. The facilities in Baraga and Marquette receive a credit for the amount against future gaming revenue payments over the next decade.

The borrowing against future revenue is another reason the improvements at the casinos should be viewed as investments. The new revenue they will bring in should help reimburse those expenses.

In the casino industry, if you’re not growing and offering people new reasons to visit, you suffer from stagnation. The Ojibwa Casinos aren’t resting on their laurels.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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