Michigan governor rejects Muskegon County casino

The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians has been working towards the casino since 2008.
The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians has been working towards the casino since 2008.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has rejected the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians’ proposal for a $180m casino.

US.- Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer has rejected a request from the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians to build an off-reservation casino in Fruitport Township, in Muskegon County. The Michigan tribe already had US federal approval for the $180m project but needed governor Whitmer’s approval. She had asked the United States Department of Interior for an extension on the deadline for her decision, but that was denied.

Whitmer wrote in a letter to the US interior secretary Deb Haaland that the department had put her in an “impossible position” and that she had been left without critical information for her decision.

“Without that information, I am unable to concur at this time and remain disappointed in the Department’s lack of flexibility in this process,” Whitmer said.

Since 2008, the tribe has been working towards constructing a 149,000-square-foot casino and 220-room hotel at the former Great Lakes Downs Racetrack site in Fruitport Township. The US Department of Interior signed off on the project on December 16, 2020, saying the casino would be in the “best interest of the tribe” and “would not be detrimental” to the community.

Larry Romanelli, leader of the Little River Band Ottawa Indians said he thinks Whitmer was misinformed about the project due to confusion related to a request for recognition of the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians.

In a letter sent to Haaland back in May, Whitmer had said that the Grand River Bands “may wish to open their own gaming facility” not far from the Little River Band’s proposed casino site, and that their plans could be “frustrated” if she were to approve the Little River Band’s casino.

Romanelli said he felt frustrated and disappointed.

“The whole community is going to suffer from a no decision,” he said.

“While we disagree completely with Governor Whitmer’s decision, we respect that she has the authority to make it,” he added.

The review process for the casino request has been under consideration for over a year and a half. Whitmer said she is open to revisiting the proposal if the US Government decides to recognise the Grand River Band.

See also: Michigan investigators seize 100 gambling devices from illegal casinos

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Casino in Michigan Little River Band of Ottawa Indians