Monroe, Ohio, Casino Still a Maybe

MONROE - Plans were announced Friday for a $250 million Indian casino complex here, but legal hurdles remain.

State law would have to be changed to allow the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma to build the gambling complex along I-75 south of Ohio 63 in the 800-acre Corridor 75 Commercial Park.

"The big question is will it happen?" said Monroe Councilman Robert Kelley. "I'd like to see the whole thing laid out. It's an interesting idea."

Owners of the park say they plan to put a hotel, stores, entertainment, restaurants and offices on the site to complement the 150-acre gambling complex. If fully developed, the complex could add 8,000 to 10,000 jobs to this city that lies in both Butler and Warren counties, officials said.

Gov. Bob Taft sent a letter Sept. 14 to a citizens group in Botkins, 50 miles north of Dayton, after the Shawnees announced plans to build a casino there.

"Let me be clear: I have opposed and will continue to oppose casino gambling in Ohio," the governor wrote. "I will not cooperate with or be party to any effort to establish Indian gaming in Ohio."

By the end of the year, the Shawnees plan to announce sites for three to five additional casinos in Ohio and then put together a package for consideration by Taft.

Terry Casey, a consultant to the tribe's developer, National Capital I, said that package would include documentation that the Shawnees once inhabited the land the tribe wants to build casinos on - a requirement of federal law.

Casey said they would ask for Class III - full service - gaming for the casinos. Under that scenario, the state would get some of the proceeds.

Casey said he believes the tribe already meets requirements for Class II gambling because the Eastern Shawnee Tribe is federally recognized, is licensed by the National Indian Gaming Commission, and can prove Shawnees once lived in the area.

Seattle's Group West Companies is working on the design of the Shawnees' project and should have conceptual drawings ready for Monroe officials to see next month.

"I'm treating this like any other economic development project," said Jay Stewart, Monroe's development and finance director.