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$180 Million Off-Reservation Western Michigan Casino Rejected

  • Written By Samantha Browne
  • Edited
  • Reading 3 minutes

A proposal by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians to develop an off-reservation casino in Fruitport Township, which has been discussed for over 14 years, was rejected by Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday.

Since the tribe acquired the 87-acre Great Lakes Downs property in July 2008, talks have been on to turn it into a casino. The Little River Indian Reservation was authorized by the U.S. Department of the Interior on Dec. 16, 2020, and Whitmer had a year to decide whether or not to accept the decision.

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland received a letter from Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer stating that the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians’ request for federal recognition could not be supported. According to her, this was because of the “uncertainty created” by the Grand River Band of Ottawa Indians, which is also seeking federal recognition.

After the Interior Department decides on the Grand River Band’s recognition request, Whitmer wrote to Haaland that she would be open to reconsidering Little River Band’s casino proposal.

The Specifics

According to her statement, the Department of Interior must first determine whether to provide federal recognition to the nearby Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians, who live just around the same place.

Before making a choice, this knowledge is essential. She was unable to agree in the absence of such knowledge. Additionally, she was dismayed by the Department’s lack of flexibility in this procedure. The U.S. Department of the Interior denied Whitmer’s request to postpone her deadline for deciding whether to let the project continue.

Whitmer was quoted as saying that she acknowledges that the Little River Band members and supporters in the local community would not like this non-concurrence. She also pointed out that she was cognizant of the substantial work and expense that went into this proposal.

Still, Muskegon’s economic growth and job creation are top priorities for her administration. Representative Terry Sabo, a staunch supporter of working people and the Muskegon community, is one such leader she committed to standing with.

What Next?

Even though the planned casino got strong local support, neighboring Michigan casinos that oppose off-reservation gambling strongly objected. Michigan’s three state-licensed casinos, Detroit City Council, and Wayne County Board of Commissioners passed resolutions last year opposing plans to expand off-reservation gambling in the state.

In February 2021, the state House also passed a resolution against the growth of off-reservation gambling that is not covered under gaming compacts authorized by the tribes, the state, and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Samantha has a passion for all things casino, especially for the development in new slots games and technology. She has a background in psychology and loves to study strategies behind gambling in her spare time.