Casinos and Indian ‘Tree-huggers’

by Henry Payne

No population benefits more from economic growth — and the availability of low-cost carbon fuels — than the world’s poor. Including right here in the United States.

Fifty percent unemployment among the northern Michigan Indian Sault Tribe has declined significantly in recent years thanks to casinos — a business model built on cheap electric power heating huge hotel-gaming complexes in the frigid climate of the state’s Upper Peninsula built to accommodate thousands of gas-powered buses and cars full of gamblers from across the Midwest.

Thus the irony of then-governor Jennifer Granholm’s 2009 agreement with the leaders of Michigan’s Indian tribes to work together to combat global warming.

“Native Americans in Michigan are the state’s original environmentalists,” Granholm said. “I am pleased that the twelve tribes are working with us to reduce the threat that greenhouse emissions pose to our environment, economy and quality of life.” The agreement says “the governor and the Indian tribes will meet at least twice each year to share information, develop analyses, and propose action plans to address global warming.”


Meanwhile, the tree-huggers of the Sault tribe have built five Upper Peninsula casinos that suck down electricity from the U.P.’s primary, 600 MW Presque Isle coal-fired power plant.

“The five Kewadin Casinos in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula employ about 1,000 people and have an annual payroll of more than $25 million. When the first Kewadin Casino opened in November 1985, it was a one-room blackjack house with 80 employees in Sault Ste. Marie,” boasts the tribe’s website. “Today the five casino properties have 500,000 square feet of facility space with 86,000 square feet earmarked for gaming space with 2,000 slot machines and 50 table games, seven restaurants and delis, two on-site hotels, a 25,000-square-foot convention facility, eight lounges and four gift shops.”

“Our casinos have made a tremendous positive impact on the Upper Peninsula and all of northern Michigan over the past 25 years,” says Sault Tribe Chairman Joe McCoy.

All thanks to cheap carbon.

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