Huge Non-Gaming Development by Gun Lake Tribe Will Indirectly Support Casino

The Gun Lake Casino is undergoing a $300 million expansion. Alongside that effort, the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians – often known by the shorter moniker Gun Lake Tribe – has set its sights on a non-gaming endeavor just north of the facility.

As reported by MiBiz this week, the tribe plans to transform hundreds of acres north of the casino into a retail, health care, housing, and manufacturing area.

Gun Lake Tribe Chairman Bob Peters said the tribe is still planning the look and feel of the project. However, he noted several synergies are possible between Gun Lake Casino and the new development.

In April 2021, the Gun Lake Tribe announced a new hotel as part of the casino expansion project. The new hotel will be 192 feet tall with 15 floors from the lower spa and meeting room to the top concierge floor.

The tribe expects the hotel to open in mid-2025. In the meantime, it hopes the new development nearby will draw more visitors to the area.

Future Plans for Gun Lake

Currently, the casino property sits on a parcel of about 140 acres parcel immediately north of 130th Avenue. This is held in trust by the federal government for the tribe as part of its reservation. Gun Lake Tribe holds the title to the other parcels it owns in the corridor. However, it will petition the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs to take as much of that land as possible into trust.

The tribe has been acquiring property north of the casino for years. This land lies along the east side of US 131 in Allegan County for future development.

The tribe’s non-gaming investment arm, Gun Lake Investments, has initiated a six-month planning phase. It will determine its priorities for using the land and where facilities will be located.

Gun Lake Investments CEO Monica King says development on the property will take 25 years or more. Officials can’t put a price tag on the project so early in the planning stage.

First Step, Federal Trust

Transferring the new property into federal trust could take six months to a year. This step is necessary because it unlocks many tribal sovereign advantages, especially for non-gaming developments.

For instance, businesses operating on trust land do not pay local or state property taxes or personal property taxes. Projects on trust land also need only to follow zoning rules set by the tribe rather than any local or state regulations.

Across Michigan, tribes have flexed sovereignty over trust lands to attract investments in various industries. In the gaming sector alone, a few tribal-run casinos have recently launched a series of add-ons and renovations to their facilities not related to gaming. Among these is Bay Mills Resort & Casino, which announced such plans in September.

The resort’s three-story waterfront hotel expansion will include 134 additional rooms with balconies, a deli, a spa with massage therapy rooms, a pool with splash pad, hot tubs, a nail salon, a fitness center, an arcade, a conference space, and a storefront.

The Bay Mills Indian Community believes waterfront views and investment in non-gambling entertainment will make it a nicer destination for family fun. It is pursuing other gaming-related investments simultaneously, such as its new DraftKings Sportsbookwhich opened this month.

Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel, owned and operated by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, is likewise in the middle of a sweeping hotel renovation. This will feature a new lobby design and a complete update of all 137 guest rooms and suites. The hotel is currently closed to the public during renovation work.

About the Author

Keith Stein

Keith Stein is a Virginia-based freelance journalist for MichiganSharp. He has a combined 27 years of experience in freelance writing, full-time journalism and supporting monthly and weekly news publications. He has also worked as a contributing writer with United Press International.