Michigan Governor Whitmer Cancels Little River Band Casino Proposal

Posted: June 16, 2022, 10:06 a.m.

Last update: June 16, 2022, 10:06 a.m.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday rejected plans for an off-reservation casino near Fruitport, Muskegon County. The decision effectively torpedoes the 12-year effort of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians to build the casino, on the site of the former Great Downs Racecourse.

small strip of river
The Little River Band accused Governor Gretchen Whitmer, above, of making a decision based on ‘misinformation’. (Image: Getty)

“It flattens it for us,” said Larry Romanelli, Ogema of the Little River Band. MLive. “I just appreciate the community support over the years. They have been very supportive of me and I feel bad for the community as well as my tribe.

Because it would have been an off-booking casino, the proposal required federal and state approval. The Department of the Interior gave its blessing to the plan in December 2020. But Whitmer said she was reluctant to follow suit until the issue of another tribe’s attempt to gain federal recognition was raised. resolved.

Opposition from the Grand River Band

The Ottawa Indians of the Grand River Band has applied for recognition with the United States Department of the Interior (DOI). If granted, it would give the tribe the right to build their own casino on their sovereign lands. The decision was delayed by the pandemic and is currently expected in October.

The federal government denied Whitmer’s request for an extension to Thursday’s deadline for its decision on the casino, pending the outcome of Grand River Band’s application. The DOI also declined to expedite its decision on the tribe’s federal status.

The Grand River Band opposed the casino ambitions of the Little River Band and claims ancestral ties to the land where it is believed to have been built.

But if they received federal recognition, their tribal lands that would be eligible for a casino are 92 miles from the site.

As such, Romanelli lamented that Whitmer “denied it for misinformation”

“I think it’s an absolutely wrong decision,” he added.

‘Big deal’

Local lawmakers, business owners and community leaders also expressed disappointment with the decision to scrap the casino project, which had broad local support.

“I’m upset with the decision because I know how important it was to the greater Muskegon area, but more so to the Little River Band and what they’ve been through over the years,” said the State Representative Terry Sabo. (D-Muskegon) said MLive.

They did whatever the government asked them to do, whether it was local government, state government or federal government, in hopes that they would get a casino Said Sabo.

Whitmer said she would be willing to revisit the Little River Band project once the issue of federal recognition of the Grand River Band is resolved.