In Michigan, a plan that would permit the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians to place 60 acres of southern Muskegon County land into trust for the purposes of building a new resort casino has been delayed following protests from a trio of fellow area tribes.
According to a Tuesday report from the digital news service at MLive Media Group, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians wants to transform the former Great Lakes Downs Racetrack in Fruitport Charter Township into a 220-room casino resort complete with meeting and conference spaces as well as entertainment and dining options. But, this $180 million plan purportedly first requires the federal government via its Bureau of Indian Affairs to grant the tribe permission to take the non-aboriginal land near the city of Muskegon into trust.
Although the proposal received overwhelming support at a public meeting held in December, it has now reportedly fallen foul of protests lodged by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, the Gun Lake Tribe and the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi. This federally-recognized trio is responsible for the Midwestern state’s Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort, Gun Lake Casino and Firekeepers Casino Hotel respectively and has objected on grounds that the site for the envisioned casino lies some 95 miles south of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians’ traditional homelands in Manistee County.
The public comment period for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians’ land-into-trust application was due to end on January 7 but the protests have pushed this deadline back to mid-April. The federally-recognized tribe’s Chief, Larry Romanelli (pictured), branded the opposition as ‘shameful’ as it will likely to lead to lead to additional delays and objections at the state level.
Romanelli made the following statement…
“They’ve known about this project. This is an attempt to slow down the process. We will prevail. I just think some of their actions are shameful.”
The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians is already responsible for the 292-room Little River Casino Resort in Manistee County and Romanelli countered the opposition by detailing that the majority of the members of his tribe live in Muskegon County. He pointed out that the plan to transform the now-vacant horseracing property into a venue boasting a 69,000 sq ft casino with some 1,700 slots alongside about 35 gaming tables dates back to 2008 and that the hostile trio constitutes a minority among the state’s twelve federally-recognized tribes.
However, James Nye from the Gun Lake Tribe, proclaimed that the planned casino in would also hurt business at his tribe’s facility, which sits some 58 miles south in Allegan County, and thus lead to job losses and reduced contributions to the public purse.
“This is not an eleventh hour objection and [Romanelli] knows that. Of course we support one another doing gaming where our reservations are located. The Gun Lake Tribe supports what they do in Manistee [County] but going 100 miles away is apples to oranges.”