Competing casino proposals race to get on Nov. ballot

One group is charging toward the finish line while the other appears stuck in the starting blocks as two groups race to get their casino gaming proposal on the November ballot.

The two groups, Michigan is Yours and Racing to Save Michigan, are competing to place initiatives on November's ballot allowing new casinos in the state. Each group needs to collect 386,000 signatures before a July 5 deadline.

The Michigan is Yours group appears to be ahead, and their spokesman expressed confidence that they will garner more than enough signatures to get their proposal on the November ballot. Meanwhile, leaders of Racing to Save Michigan have said publicly they may have to wait until 2012 for their initiative.

Michigan is Yours is co-chaired by Benton Harbor Mayor Wilce Cooke and former Detroit Gaming Commissioner Frank Stella. MIY is seeking to put casinos in Detroit, Flint, Lansing, Benton Harbor, Muskegon, Port Huron and at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The group also wants to allow sports betting at all new casinos.

Under the MIY proposal, the seven casinos would have to pay a wagering tax on their adjusted gross receipts of 19 percent or less, which would go toward fully funding the state's Pure Michigan national tourism campaign, the Michigan Promise Grant program and help to support public schools and local and county governments where the casinos are built.

"Our casino proposal has the capacity to bring jobs and economic development to some of the hardest hit regions in Michigan," said Trevor Sarter, spokesman for MIY. "We want to include everyone in Michigan, and we invite them to join our diverse coalition of supporters."

MIY has hired two professional signature-gathering firms and has reached out to labor unions, ethnically diverse groups and the LGBT community to help get the necessary signatures to get the proposal on the ballot this November.

"We are confident, we are excited and we are determined to be successful with more than enough signatures," said Sarter.

Racing to Save Michigan's proposal is to add three new casinos around the state and add casino gaming to Michigan's five licensed racetracks: Hazel Park Harness Raceway, Northville Downs, Swartz Creek's Sports Creek Raceway, Pinnacle Race Course in Van Buren Township and Mount Pleasant Meadows. Their proposal also calls for wagering tax to help fund education, local municipalities and county level governments.

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