Muskegon County Casino Proposal Resurfaces In Michigan

Written By Derek Helling on October 27, 2022
michigan muskegon county casino great river

The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians will take up the cause of a Michigan casino in Muskegon County once more. While there’s no guarantee this attempt will be successful, at least one tribal representative exudes confidence.

A dispute over possession of the land the casino would occupy remains and that could prove a significant roadblock once more. A decision on a related matter could provide some clarity to the situation.

Muskegon County casino is on the docket again

A similar proposal by the Little River Band met its end in June. However, Lynn Moore of MLive reports the operator of the Little River Casino operator near Manistee, Michigan will try to get approval to open its second tribal casino again.

Little River Band Ogema Larry Romanelli said the US Dept. of the Interior has assured the tribe of its support for the project. Additionally, Romanelli expressed that approval from the DOI’s Bureau of Indian Affairs could come quickly, as the DOI approved the earlier plans.

The earlier failure wasn’t purely a federal issue, however, it was a state issue. As of right now, the land dispute that caused the issue is still outstanding.

Why DOI support is no guarantee of future success

In June, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer rejected the Little River Band’s plans for the second casino near Fruitport Township. The project needed her approval because it would occupy a tract of land that is not part of the Little River Band’s reservation.

The Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians have laid claim to the same land. Whitmer cited that claim in her denial, expressing that if the DOI recognizes the tribe and takes the land into trust for the Grand River Bands, they might wish to build a casino there.

As of Thursday, the DOI was still considering the Grand River Bands’ application for federal recognition. Should that status persist until Whitmer (or her predecessor) decides on the Little River Band’s new proposal, she will again have to consider the land dispute in her decision.

Should the DOI approve Grand River Bands’ application for recognition, that essentially takes the decision out of the Michigan governor’s hands. The Little River Band would no longer control the land that it wants to place the casino on.

A rejection of that application by the DOI would also make the decision far easier for the same. Even in that situation, however, it might not be an open-and-shut case.

More opposition to the new casino in Fruitport Township

A trio of other tribal casino operators has also expressed opposition to a casino in Muskegon County. All three of the tribes own their casinos within a two-hour drive of Fruitport Township.

Community officials in nearby Wayne County and the greater Detroit area have opposed the casino project as well. Again, the consideration was market saturation given the number of other casinos in the region.

Those sentiments spilled over to some state legislature members. That could prove problematic even if Whitmer approves the project this time. The bottom line is that even if the Little River Band’s proposal does have adamant support from the DOI, obstacles remain.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including legislation and litigation in the gaming industry. He enjoys reading hundreds of pages of a gambling bill or lawsuit for his audience. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa.

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