Three Michigan tribal leaders have called for a probe into the federal approval of a casino project that is supposed to be hosted by Muskegon County.
On June 28th, the three tribal leaders sent a letter to the inspector general for the US Department of the Interior, Mark Lee Greenblatt, saying that the project unveiled by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians a casino outside their reservation lands was approved by the administration of former President Donal Trump in December 2020. As the letter reads, the project created a massive disagreement in the state of Michigan, especially considering the involvement of Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
In their letter, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe’s chairman Tim Davis, the chairman of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, Jamie Stuck, and Bob Peters, head of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Potawatomi Indians, explained that the aforementioned casino project approval had been driven by politics and was aimed at harming the Governor of Michigan, who has been known as a fierce critic of former President Trump.
The letter has been sent as the latest effort in the ongoing controversy over the Muskegon County casino project that has been underway for more than a decade. The move’s future is now left in the hands of Governor Whitmer who is being called to approve the project by some West Michigan officials, while the opponents of the project are lobbying for the casino to be blocked. Considering the situation, whatever Governor Whitmer decides, one of the two parties will be unhappy.
Muskegon County’s Tribal Casino Project to Boost Local Economy
The site that is supposed to host the new casino is situated in Fruitport Township, which is more than 90 miles away from the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians’ reservation in Manistee County. The almost-60-acre property was acquired by the Native American nation in 2008.
On December 16th, the project was signed off by the assistant secretary of Indian affairs in President Trump’s administration – Tara Sweeney. Normally, gaming and gambling services offered on lands acquired into trust are suspended under the provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, unless the secretary of Indian affairs at the federal Department makes an assessment that a project is in the best interest of the tribe.
At the time when she announced her decision on the project, Ms. Sweeney said that the proposed project was set to boost the economic activity and will open new jobs for the local community.
Now, the Governor of Michigan is expected to synchronize her determination on the project within a year in order for the casino plans to be allowed to proceed further. As a spokesman for Governor Whitmer revealed in May, the Native American Tribe’s application is being reviewed, with an update on the matter set to be provided when there is one.
In their letter to the local authorities, the leaders of three other tribes that already run casino venues in the state of Michigan, claim they met with the former assistant secretary of Indian affairs on December 4th, almost two weeks before the determination on the project was made. At the time, they were told a decision on the Little River Band’s application was not imminent.
They have now called the Inspector General’s office to check whether the required substantive and procedural processes were followed, as they want to know whether the decision was inappropriately affected by the federal elections and politics.