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The U.S. Department of Interior gave Station Casinos and a Michigan Indian tribe formal approval Friday to develop a 192,000-square-foot gambling hall on 145 acres about 25 miles north of Kalamazoo, Mich.
Nearly two years after entering a development and management agreement with the Gun Lake Tribe, Station Casinos said the Interior Department's decision to move the land into trust -- a term meaning a tribe can develop a site in a manner to benefit the economic well-being of its members -- means construction could begin by the end of summer.
"We view this decision as one of the final steps in the development of a state-of-the- art gaming and entertainment facility in Western Michigan," Station Casinos Chief Financial Officer Glenn Christenson said in a statement.
The tribe and the Las Vegas-based gaming company still have to wait 30 days to allow parties opposed to the casino to file a lawsuit.
"The economic impact for the Gun Lake Tribe will be substantial. We believe the casino will lead to 4,900 full-time jobs, both directly and indirectly involved with the casino," Station Casinos spokeswoman Lesley Pittman said.
Station Casinos, which operates an Indian gaming casino near Sacramento, Calif., for the United Auburn Tribe, plans to turn an existing building into a casino complex with 2,500 slot machines, 75 table games, a buffet and other specialty restaurants.
Pittman said the company will continue to work with the tribe in touting the casino's economic benefits.
When it announced the agreement in 2003, Station Casinos said it would enter a seven-year management agreement with the Gun Lake Tribe and collect fees based on the casino's performance.
Gaming analysts estimate the contract could add between $10 million and $20 million annually to the company's revenue and boost the company's stock price by 15 cents to $2 a share annually.
The Gun Lake project could open in 2007.
Station Casinos shares fell $2.43, or 3.89 percent, Friday to close at $60.09.
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