by Ray Poirier | MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGM) and two other casino operators in Detroit have been operating as near monopolies because of the way Michigan lawmakers structured the casino legislation.
For several years, the casinos were permitted to attract customers to temporary facilities with the promise that as years passed and they accumulated profits they would construct multi-million dollar tourist destinations.
Leading the pack in that regard was MGM MIRAGE which recently opened an $800 million casino in downtown Detroit.
So it was not unexpected that MGM MIRAGE would not take kindly to competition coming from Native American casinos, not included in Michigans gaming laws. Tribes want to build casinos in Romulus, just 23 miles from Detroit, and in Port Huron, some 60 miles away.
To help its case, according to the Port Hurons The Times Herald newspaper, MGM MIRAGE funded an organization called "Gambling Watch" and circulated flyers to homes across Michigan that decried gambling.
One flyer warned, "Washington Poised to Force Two New Casinos on Michigan Families. Only You Can Stop the Special Interests."
The use, by MGM MIRAGE, of anti-gambling rhetoric to oppose competition is being lambasted by casino supporters. And, powerful Congressman John Dingell, whose district includes Romulus, has likened Gambling Watchs tactics to those employed by imprisoned ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
The casinos require that Congress approve land-swap deals. Observers have suggested the measure will be seriously opposed when it reaches the Senate for consideration.