From the Petoskey News Review:
New casino revenue sharing approach planned
By Ryan Bentley News-Review Staff Writer
A more specific framework has been crafted for how Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians casino proceeds should be shared with the local community.
The Emmet County Local Revenue Sharing Board, a three-member appointed panel, is charged with distributing a 2 percent share of the Odawa Casino Resort’s electronic gaming proceeds to fund community programs and services. This sharing of revenue is called for in the Odawa tribe’s compact with the state which allows for the casino’s operation.
The board developed a more detailed set of guidelines for how this process should occur based on recent meetings with local officials.
“We thought, ‘Let’s look at it again to make it more equitable and not have so much discretionary spending, and have category funds to take care of infrastructure,” said revenue sharing board chairman Les Atchison.
The board has asked four area units of government to consider a resolution that would show their support for the new approach. It received unanimous approval from the Bear Creek Township Board on Wednesday and from the Emmet County Board of Commissioners on Thursday, with officials from Petoskey and Resort Township expected to consider it in the near future as well.
“It’s a lot of responsibility,” Atchison said of the revenue-sharing process. “We want a reaffirmation of how we’re doing this, that people think it’s the correct way of passing out the funds.”
The new guidelines call for a 35 percent share of revenue-sharing awards to be distributed to six local units of government as a replacement for the taxes they previously levied on the casino site. Because it’s been placed in a federal trust status, the site has been taken off the property tax rolls.
This 35 percent share will be allocated to Charlevoix-Emmet Intermediate School District, Emmet County, Greenwood Cemetery, North Central Michigan College, Public Schools of Petoskey and Resort Township. Their respective shares will be determined based on their percentages of the total tax levy which would be collected without the trust status in place.
Another 21 percent of the revenue-sharing awards would go to public-safety agencies and programs to mitigate social problems. Specific recipients for funding in this category would be the Emmet County Sheriff’s Department, which would receive money for a deputy to focus on the casino area; the Resort-Bear Creek Fire Department, which provides protection to the casino; the Straits Area Narcotics Enforcement team, which would receive support for an officer position; Lakeview Academy, a school for area youth on probation; and Harbor Hall, which offers programs for people with gambling problems.
A 25 percent share would be devoted to capital needs such as infrastructure work — road construction and traffic signals, for example — that’s needed because of the casino’s presence. Through this category, local governments also could be assisted in acquiring land for purposes such as open-space preservation and recreation.
The remaining 19 percent of revenue sharing distributions would be provided to cover discretionary grants and administrative expenses.
“The big picture for Bear Creek, I think, is good in this agreement,” Bear Creek Township supervisor Dennis Keiser said during Wednesday’s board meeting.
Atchison added Thursday: “It’s a new direction. If it isn’t working, we can talk some more.”
Before the new formula was developed, the Local Revenue Sharing Board had only a few formal criteria to follow in granting awards. Based on the Odawa gaming compact, they’ve had to distribute at least 12.5 percent of awards to public safety, with the board giving priority to social services and recreation as well. The compact also calls for local governments’ property taxes to be replaced, but doesn’t provide a clear formula for doing so.
Atchison is Emmet County’s appointee to the revenue sharing board. Bob Wheaton recently was appointed by Resort Township as its representative. Atchison and Wheaton decided that Bear Creek was the community with the next largest impact from the Odawa Casino Resort. Bear Creek thus got to appoint the third board member, and selected Al Foster.
More dollars expected
Recently, the 2 percent share of Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians electronic gaming proceeds provided to the community has totaled about $1.1 million per year. Following the recent replacement of Victories Casino with the larger Odawa Casino Resort, the Emmet County Local Revenue Sharing Board predicts this annual total could soon rise to the $1.5 million range.