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WAYLAND, Mich. (WOOD) - Even though she's never gambled there, Kristie LeValley said her Gun Lake Casino payout is big.
The controversial casino is pumping lots of money into Wayland Union Schools, and that is saving her family at least $500 a year, she said.
"I wasn't sure how I felt about the casino at first," LeValley said. "But seeing all the good that it's doing, it's just a blessing in disguise, actually. It's wonderful."
Among the savings: no more pay-to-play sports. With her two children playing a total of five sports at $75 a sport, that's $375 alone.
Her children -- along with all 7th- through 12th-graders -- will get free iPads for school.
And on Thursday, she learned that home sporting events at Wayland Union Schools will be free for school district residents. That's saving $155 a year for a family sports pass.
The Gun Lake Casino, which opened in February 2011 and is still at the center of a federal lawsuit, pays 10% of its slot machine take to the state and local governments. That's a total of $15 million in the last year.
That's meant $12 million to the state, which gets 8%; $1.4 million to Wayland-Union schools; $700,000 to Wayland Township; $500,000 to Allegan County; and $240,000 for Allegan Area Educational Service. Other nearby communities have each gotten about $25,000.
"I guess I didn't dream we were going to get this kind of money, especially so early on," said Wayland Township Supervisor Roger VanVolkinburg.
He said the casino money has more than doubled Wayland Township's budget. It has allowed the township to stop talking about the possibility of property tax hikes, he said.
He points to a newly repaved 4-mile stretch of 126th Avenue leading to Gun Lake.
"It was to the point where it was going to be easier to make it a gravel road again," he said.
The township's $250,000 share of rebuilding that road all came from the casino, he said.
VanVolkinburg said the township also uses the money to pay for two Allegan County deputies to patrol 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
But it's the schools where the impact is felt most, and not just the free home games and iPads. There's free daily snacks for young students. Parents no longer have to buy pencils, scissors and other school supplies.
"The bottom line is they'll all show up on the first day of school with everything they need to get them through the whole school year," said Wayland first-grade teacher Lynn Donaldson.
The school district said residents will be able to get into events free is they're wearing Wayland's green-and-white school colors, or if they have a free pass. Those passes are available at school offices, Wayland City Hall and at some area businesses. They don't cover away games or MHSAA-sponsored tournaments.
Since December 2011 :
State: $12 million
Wayland-Union Schools: $1.4 million
Wayland Township: $700,000
Allegan County: $500,000
Allegan Area Educational Service: $240,000
City of Wayland: $25,000
Leighton Twp: $25,000
Dorr Twp: $25,000
Martin Twp: $25,000
Hopkins Twp: $25,000
Yankee Springs Twp: $25,000
Total: $15 million
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