New attitude toward casino cash

Can bickering over bylaws be bygones in Berrien County?

“That’s a serious problem and I think we’ve come a long way today in resolving that issue,” said Berrien County Administrator Bill Wolf.

On Monday, there appeared to be a new spirit of cooperation, along with a new proposed plan to share the promised wealth from the Four Winds Casino near New Buffalo.

This is the first significant step in trying to resolve what has become a costly local dispute.

The latest estimates show that $5.7 million may be at stake.

While the tribe that owns the Four Winds Casino promised to hand over two percent of its slot machine revenue to local governments, that has yet to happen.

The tribe instead placed the money into an interest bearing trust account, in part, because the locals were feuding over the revenue distribution plan in place.

“If we are not in agreement on the formula for the distribution, for the two percent, that's a serious problem and I think we've come a long way today in resolving that issue,” said Wolf.

“Revenue distribution always has been a big issue,” said Dr. Michael Lindley, the Superintendent of the New Buffalo Schools: “because we believe that the school district was getting less in the bylaws than what the compact was providing for.”
There will be further discussion of the proposed changes at a special meeting on the 28th of April.

Perhaps the biggest change involves the money earmarked to pay public safety costs. Instead of 45-percent of the total revenue paying for the likes of police, fire, and emergency medical services, the public safety proceeds would be capped at $1.8 million.

Any money that came in over and above the cap, would be placed into a discretionary account. Local governments could obtain that cash with far fewer strings attached.

The latest estimates show that local governments could be in line to receive $5.7 million dollars a year. That’s far more than the last official estimate of $3.4 million. The previous estimate came before the casino opened its doors.

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