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Sunday, 14 April 2013 22:00

Gun Lake Tribe plans casino expansion, hotel

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Shagonaby Shagonaby MIBIZ FILE PHOTO: JEFF HAGE

Based on the initial success of the Gun Lake Casino, the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians now plans to expand.

The Gun Lake Tribe recently submitted plans to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit office for authorization to fill in an adjacent wetland in anticipation of further development at the casino site.

“Since its opening, the casino has been an amazing success and, as a result, we are now exploring a first phase of expansion,” John Shagonaby, CEO of the Gun Lake Tribal Gaming Authority, the economic development arm of the tribe’s government, said in a statement to MiBiz.

A notice from the Corps states the tribe wants to construct additional gaming space, a hotel tower, parking garage, cinema, bowling alley and spa.

“The tribe has explored numerous options for new amenities that would maintain viability in an increasingly competitive casino resort marketplace, while also offering new career opportunities, and more revenue to state and local governments,” Shagonaby stated.

Filings with the state show the tribe paid out almost $5.4 million in revenue sharing with local governments. “New amenities would also enhance the entertainment product currently offered to our guests.”

When contacted for comment, the tribe’s spokesperson said he could not confirm or deny any future addition would include the amenities listed in the notice.

While the project would fill nearly four acres of wetlands to accommodate the expansion, the tribe proposed purchasing wetland mitigation credits for double the project’s size to offset its environmental impact.

The tribe had originally designed its gaming facility to be nearly double the size of the 83,000-square-foot casino it opened in 2011, but a series of economic and legal setbacks forced the group to scale back the project and split it into phases.

While expanding the gaming facility had long been part of the tribe’s plans, Shagonaby told MiBiz in a February 2012 interview — almost a year after the casino first opened — that “the tribe has no plans to move ahead with a hotel” at the time, noting other nearby facilities were already serving visitors.

When plans for the casino were announced a decade ago, a study commissioned by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce predicted the casino would result in a loss of $92 million in economic activity from other businesses in the region, including from entertainment and hospitality businesses in Grand Rapids.

Andy Johnston, vice president of government and corporate affairs for the chamber, told MiBiz the organization hadn’t seen the tribe’s plan and had “no opinion on the expansion at this time.”

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