Monday, February 3, 2003

Indian tribe backs casino plan near Dayton



The Associated Press

BOTKINS, Ohio - An unidentified developer is willing to pay $950 million over the next 10 years to build an entertainment site anchored by an Indian-owned bingo hall and casino, residents of this west-central Ohio community have been told. But it comes with a condition: The community must be united in support of the project.

"This community needs to come together before this project gets started," said James Hill of Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Mich., who has studied the community effect of Indian casinos. "This can't become an us-and-them situation. Settle those contentious issues now. If you don't want a casino now, don't do it. If you do, then go forward."

More than 300 people attended a two-hour community meeting Friday night to hear about the plan.

They were told that this village of 1,300 residents about 50 miles north of Dayton could expect an increase in crime, ethnic diversity and challenges to local services as a balance to the economic boost gambling would bring. No estimated construction date was discussed.

Tom Schnippel, owner of a construction company in Botkins, is representing the Indian tribe interested in the project. Hedeclined to identify the group.

Terry Casey, a spokesman for the developer, said the 10-year plan for the site would be carried out in seven stages.

The first phase would cost $50 million and include a bingo hall and casino in excess of 100,000 square feet and create 600 jobs.

Subsequent phases include restaurants, a 250-unit hotel, a parking garage and a golf course.

The council has options on the property, which is about a mile south of the village and bordered by Interstate 75, Ohio 274 and a county road.

Hill said the owners of such facilities in Michigan pay 10 percent of the casino's income in taxes.

The state collects 8 percent, with 2 percent being given to local organizations.

If the land were placed in a tribal trust by the federal government, the owners would not pay real estate or personal property taxes.

"The biggest issue of this whole project is what services get that 2 percent," Hill said.

He said studies need to determine the effect the development would have on schools, housing, traffic, health services and crime.

Council members have been criticized recently for refusing to publicly discuss or allow questions regarding the project.




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