Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Announces Plans to Begin Development of Mackinaw Property

July 20, 2015

The Little Traverse Bay Bands (LTBB) of Odawa Indians approved funding for the first phase of a 5-year strategic development plan. The plan includes developing land that the tribe acquired in 2012 into a small casino and RV Park. It also includes construction of 130-room hotel that would be adjacent to their existing casino in Petoskey, Mich.

Harbor Springs, Mich. – Residents and visitors of Mackinaw City, Mich. will soon begin seeing signs of development around the abandoned Thunder Falls Water Park.

The Little Traverse Bay Bands (LTBB) of Odawa Indians approved funding for the first phase of a 5-year strategic development plan. The plan includes developing land that the tribe acquired in 2012 into a small casino and RV Park. It also includes construction of 130-room hotel that would be adjacent to their existing casino in Petoskey, Mich.

The Mackinaw City parcel, located at 1028 Nicolet Street, operated as Thunder Falls Water Park until 2012. Odawa tribal leaders have been considering the parcel for development of a casino since they initiated the land purchase.
"We have always intended to develop the land, but the timing and the exact plan for the casino haven't been right until now," said Regina Gasco-Bentley, chairperson for the Odawa tribe.

Beginning in September, the tribe plans to begin construction on a 5,000 square foot gaming venue that would comprise of 64 slot machines. The venue is slated to open in May of 2016. The following spring, development of a 25-space RV park would commence. Construction would begin on the new hotel for Odawa Casino in 2019.
"We're taking a very deliberate approach to the development of the Mackinaw casino," said Eric McLester, general manager for Odawa Casino. "It's obviously a smaller property and will have more of a boutique feel than Odawa Casino. Completing it in phases will give us an opportunity to fine tune the operation based on the specific needs in Mackinaw City."
According to McLester, completing the construction in phases will also allow the tribe to pay for the construction in Mackinaw entirely from its own funds.

On June 18, the Odawa Tribal Council voted to approve using funds that the tribe had previously set aside for economic development purposes to begin construction on the first phase of the casino.
"As we look to ensure the viability and success of the next seven generations of LTBB citizens, we have been setting aside money to develop new business ventures for the tribe. The vote on Thursday earmarked some of those funds to kick off the Mackinaw project," Gasco-Bentley said.
The development of the Mackinaw City property will bring year-round jobs to the area, and steadily create more in the years to come. When the property opens next summer, there will be approximately 20 employees that will grow as demand grows.

The Odawa tribe's original compact with the state of Michigan allows the tribe to open a second Class III casino. Whether the facility will operate Class II or Class III gaming has yet to be determined. "In order to open as a Class III facility, we will need to reach an agreement with the village of Mackinaw City," said McLester. "Now that we have approval from the tribe, we'll be reaching out to Mackinaw to open discussions."

Based on the tribe's revenue estimates for the new casino, signing a service agreement with Mackinaw City could result in funds totaling more than $2 million over the next 10 years that the city could use for improvements or services and an additional $6 million that would go to the state.

"The tribal citizens of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians are proud of the world-class entertainment facility we have built in Petoskey, and we look forward to the new facility coming to Mackinaw City. Our business provides jobs for more than 500 of our neighbors and tribal citizens, and we look forward to adding to that number for generations to come," Gasco-Bentley said.

Owned and operated by the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Odawa Casino Resort in Petoskey opened in June, 2007 and features 1,200 slot machines, 25 table games, a four table Poker Room, several restaurants, gift shop, a nightclub and a 137-room hotel.

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