Finally, a long-time effort for a Muskegon County casino based outside reservation land could reach a turning point in June, as both proponents and opponents of the project are eagerly waiting for the decision of Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
If the Governor of Michigan gives the green light to the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians’ project worth $180 million, the casino is expected to bring further economic benefits for the region and create hundreds of new jobs for local people.
However, the opponents of the casino development, including the Wayne County Board of Commissioners and the Detroit City Council’s members, have shared their concern that a possible approval for the project could set a bad precedent. They explained that, in their opinion, other tribes could successfully pursue the establishment of casinos in new areas that could siphon the profits of the already existing casino operators and the government gaming revenues in the southeast part of the state.
Off-reservation casinos are currently not that common in the US.
Some local officials have described the project and its possible development as opening “the floodgates”, as Muskegon County, which wants to have the off-reservation casino established, would be put against the three commercial casinos in Detroit and other areas that already host tribal casino venues.
Proposal Opponents Fear That New Casino Could Harm the Already Existing Casino Companies’ Profits
Earlier this year, Representative Roger Hauck became a sponsor to a resolution in the Michigan House against the “unchecked proliferation” of gaming services offered outside reservation land. The measure was adopted by the GOP-controlled chamber after a voice vote. Then, a similar measure was unveiled in the Michigan Senate after being sponsored by Senators Rick Outman and John Bizon.
According to the proposal, the new casino could be hosted in a 60-acre property in Fruitport Township that was acquired by the tribe in 2008. The site is situated at about 92 driving miles away from Manistee County where the tribe’s reservation is.
The federal government, however, has established that the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians descends from a confederation that once occupied southwestern Michigan, and more specifically the Grand River area, including what is now Muskegon County. The headquarters of the tribe is situated in Manistee County but, currently, most of its 4,800 members actually live in Muskegon County. Most of the tribe’s members are older people with specific health and housing needs.
The chief of the tribe, Larry Romanelli, expressed his hopes that the project will get the green light from Michigan Governor Whitmer and added that the casino development would have a considerable social and economic impact both on the tribe and on the entire area. The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, which already operates a casino in Manistee, has been trying to get approval for its Muskegon County project for more than a decade. The project involves a former horse race track and apart from the gambling services includes a 220-room hotel, retail space, some dining areas and more than 1,900 parking spaces.