In June 2022, Gov. Whitmer rejected the plan of the Little River Band of Ottawa’s plans to construct a casino in Fruitport Township that was to be called Lakeshore Casino, putting 14 years of planning in jeopardy. Why did this happen? What is the history of this project? Let’s find out.
Lakeshore Casino Resort
The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians planned to build a new casino resort on 60 acres in Fruitport Township, next to the Lakes Mall. The historic Great Lakes Downs racetrack is located close to Harvey Street and Hile Road. In 2007 the racetrack was shut down, and in 2008 it was destroyed. A few years later, the unoccupied site was bought by the Little River Band.
The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians planned to open a second casino at the Lakeshore Casino Resort in Muskegon County. In Manistee, Michigan, the tribe also owns the Little River Casino.
The tribe submitted its application to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in February 2015 to place the land in federal trust for their intended casino. The lengthy process leading to complete and final approval by the federal, state, and municipal governments then began.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs released a Final Environmental Impact Statement in October 2020 for study and feedback from the general public. The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs granted federal clearance to the casino proposal after hearing and considering public comments.
The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians was granted permission to construct a Class II Indian casino where players compete against one another, but the tribe had to obtain state clearance for Class III gambling, which included games played in a Vegas-style environment.
Muskegon Casino isn’t the only project of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, it has been putting out a monthly publication called Currents since January 1994. The official tribe website has all editions of the newspaper available to readers.
Gov. Whitmer Rejects the Proposed Casino in Muskegon County
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer rejected a proposal to establish a casino in Muskegon County in June 2022. Whitmer indicated that her choice was made in light of the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians’ potential for federal recognition.
She stated that the Interior Department must first determine whether to provide federal status to the close-by Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians. Before making a choice, it is essential to have this knowledge.
The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians’ Larry Romanelli stated that the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians’ petition for federal clearance had nothing to do with the casino proposal and that he believes Whitmer was misinformed about the issue. He said that he was angry and dissatisfied and that such a decision would be detrimental to the entire community.
Senator Jon Bumstead of Muskegon claimed during a statement on the Senate floor that Whitmer’s rejection of this proposal immediately resulted in the loss of 3,000 jobs in Michigan. He claimed that rather than improving new economic prospects for households in the Great Lakes State, Whitmer would rather play politics and defend the interests of her supporters in Southeast Michigan.
Town supervisor for Fruitport Township Todd Dunham was perplexed by Whitmer’s citation of the Grand River Bands’ application for federal recognition as justification for opposing the casino proposal. Even after receiving federal recognition, he predicted that it would take the Grand River Bands another 12 to 18 years before they could get a feasible casino project.