Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson spilled the beans on Charlie Langton’s Talk Radio 1270 show about a planned petition drive to bring new casinos to nine to 11 Michigan communities.
The revelation came during an interview where Langton asked Patterson what he thought of Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero’s proposal to aid his community’s economy with a new casino.
Patterson said he thought Bernero “jumped the gun.”
“There’s a plan out there right now that Virg sort of jumped the gun on. There is a group looking to put a number of casinos around the state and sharing revenue…Given the fact that everybody’s budget is strained, cities, townships, villages, school districts, colleges … Something like that should be voted on,” Patterson said.
Patterson added the new casinos would be a way to raise money for cash strapped communities across the state, but he didn’t say whether he would expressly support it.
“I would leave it to the public,” Patterson said. “I’m not going to impose it. It’s not a tax, it’s basically a user fee. It’s not a tax on the public, I think Oakland County residents may think favorably about it.”
Patterson said a private group has been formed to run a statewide petition drive to amend the Michigan constitution to allow the casinos.
“It’s in the range of 9 to 11 communities across Michigan, under this constitutional amendment to add casinos,” Patterson said. “A certain portion of the proceeds would go to the host communities, the county, and so forth. If the public wants it, they can vote for it … I think it’s preferable to the tax increase.”
He said the petition drive is in the works “right now, as we speak.”
So, who are the backers and where would the casinos go?
“I think Virg might have jumped the gun a little bit. I do believe Lansing was in it, I don’t know what he had to gain by that, but he can’t on his own engineer a petition drive across the state, it’s very expensive, it’s labor intensive … But if you had 9 or 11 communities … all working together … I think you could get the 1.2 million signatures or whatever it is you have to have (to bring it to voters).”
Patterson later amended the number, saying putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot would take 300,000 signatures.
“I don’t speak for this group, I’m just aware of its existence,” Patterson said.
If this group does bring the constitutional amendment question to Michigan voters, they would presumably face the same obstacles as Bernero’s plan, which has faced strong opposition and even lawsuit threats from operators of casinos in Detroit and Mount Pleasant.
“Detroiters are going to hate it,” Langton said.
“Oh yeah,” Patterson responded.