Indian Tribe Looks to Monroe, Ohio, for New Casino

A Native American tribe, searching to anchor a $250 million casino and entertainment complex in southwest Ohio

Tribal leaders said they want a casino where Class III gambling is allowed as well as dining, retail, lodging, entertainment options and possible conference sites.

"The casino will be but a small part of this" development, Robinson said.

Group West is identified on the National Indian Gaming Association Web site as an associate member with a focus on "gaming, resorts, hotels, restaurants, tourism and entertainment projects."

"He (Loveland) is going to look at this as a total package and give us his thoughts," Becker said.

"Nobody has had this kind of canvas to paint on," Casey said of the development possibilities.

The tribe's investment in the area will be about $250 million, while the owners of Corridor 75 will invest an additional "$400 million to $500 million," Robinson said.

Casey estimated the casino complex itself will have "3,000 to 4,000" jobs, not counting construction or other jobs spawned by the complex.

Robinson said if the project is successful, it impact could impact beyond Ohio's borders. "This becomes one of the major employment engines in the Midwest," he said.

With the excitement surrounding today's announcement, representatives said no timetable has been set when ground will be broken for the project. Becker said there is work still to be done with state or federal governments.

The tribe hopes to develop agreements with Monroe and the Butler and Warren county governments on possible revenue sharing, Casey said.

Becker said the earliest the Monroe City Council could see a proposed agreement would be Oct. 12. Stewart said he hopes to have something before city council by its Nov. 9 meeting.

Casey and Becker could not say what Monroe, Butler and Warren counties might see financially from the project.

"We want to work with the counties -- Butler and Warren," Casey said.

Butler Commissioner Michael Fox said it has long been his stance that a community's voters should speak on whether they want casino gambling.

"As an article of faith for me, I think the community should always have a right to vote 'yes' or 'no,'" said Fox, who has not set where he stands on the issue.

But the commissioner did not know if federal law governing casino gambling "preempts" any chance of a local vote on the question. And he did not know whether Gov. Taft could require a local vote in any sort of state compact with the tribe.

Fox said he has seen the tribe's plans from the tribe and is impressed with the renderings. He called them "world-class."

But he said he and his two fellow commissioners have not discussed the issue yet, and have not examined numbers, money flow, traffic impact and other infrastructure questions.

Stewart said city government cannot derail a land transaction between an American Indian tribe and private landowners. Overall, development of Indian-owned casinos is governed by a complex array of federal laws. The federal government made such projects possible through the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act passed in 1988.

But the city may have a voice as the tribe moves through the federal regulatory process seeking to build a casino, Stewart said. He would expect state government also to be interested in how Monroe officials see the project.

"Technically, if we were to oppose this, would we be successful? I don't know that answer," Stewart said.

Stewart said he is impressed so far with Casey's and Becker's willingness to cooperate on behalf of the tribe.

"From the beginning, they have been very straightforward and honest," Stewart said.

Robinson said the timing of Ohio Department of Transportation's planned improvements to the I-75/Ohio 63 interchange -- which would lead to the main entrance into the potential casino site -- will serve the tribe's plans at the site well. He said ODOT has already staked out the project, and he expects physical work to begin on the interchange in 2006.

The state has said its commitment to the interchange upgrade is $47.5 million, with the total cost put at $53.3 million. The upgrade is on the state's new "tier I" list of projects, but the state Transportation Review Advisory Committee plans has the bulk of construction spending -- about $38.1 million -- scheduled for 2008.