The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians has decided to resubmit the application to build a new casino in Muskegon county despite being denied once already.
The tribe submitted the proposal for the $180 million project to the United States Department of Interior (DOI) after nearly 14 years of planning.
The proposal outlined the benefits the project would bring to the community as well as the 10-year environmental impact. The location of the casino and hotel would be in Fruitport Township, at the intersection of U.S. 31 and I-96. Because this area is considered non-tribal land, the plans had to be approved at the state and federal levels.
When it came time for Michigan to make a decision, Governor Whitmer denied the proposal a day before the deadline. Her main consideration behind the decision was how it would affect the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians. The Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians have been awaiting federal recognition as a tribe for decades. This decision has been delayed once again. If the federal government makes a decision by February favoring the Grand River Bands’, then this land in Fruitport would belong to them. The Grand River Bands’ would then be given the opportunity to open a casino of their own. During her announcement, Whitmer stated, “The Department of Interior first needs to decide whether they are providing federal recognition for the neighboring Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians. It is critical to have this information before making an informed decision.”
It is unclear if Governor Whitmer maintained any other reasons to deny Little Rivers’s proposal. Whitmer has unarguably been supportive of sports wagering and online gambling in the past, helping legalize both activities in 2019. The hesitation is simply due to the federal government’s delay in providing the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians a federal recognition answer. It is important to note that Whitmer did request an extension on the Little River decision from the U.S. Department of Interior, but the request was refused.
Local Support for Little River Casino
While the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians lacks support at the state level, it makes up for it from its local community.
Larry Romanelli (Tribal Ogema for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians) stated how much backing the first proposal received:
“We’ve had overwhelming support from the community for these years,”
“The first package that we submitted was very good. It was one of the best that the Department of Interior had ever received, and because of the outpouring of support for this, (the DOI) recognize it as a very good deal.”
The production of this 220-room hotel and casino could have a massive impact on the Muskegon economy. The project is estimated to create 1,500 construction jobs, 1,500 full-time jobs, and $3 million in revenue for the community. This casino/hotel would also boost tourism in the area.
Todd Dunham (Fruitport Township Supervisor) believes that this project has the potential to get greenlit. He shared his thoughts last month in this statement: “The DOI does extensive analysis, and the Governor’s office should be able to rely on their conclusions and recommendations…the DOI said they have never seen a project with so much support. The idea that this interferes with another tribe is just a smokescreen.”
It is obvious that the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians still believes in this project and is determined to get the necessary approval to make it happen.
Mac Daniel is a Michigan native and freelance writer for PlayOnlineCasino and PlayOnlineSportsBetting. He has experience writing about a wide variety of topics, including healthcare, tourism, non-profit organizations, and most recently casino and sportsbetting news. To check out more of his work, visit: playonlinemichigan.com