Proposed casino will be on site of closed down Great Lakes Downs race track.
Band Submits Application to BIA
MUSKEGON, MICHIGAN — The approval process for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians (LRBOI) to develop an Indian gaming facility in Muskegon County is advancing to the next step. The LRBOI late yesterday filed its application at the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) regional office to take land into trust for a proposed casino and economic development project to be located on 60 acres of the former Great Lakes Downs racetrack site in Fruitport Township.
“This marks another step forward for the Band and the Muskegon region,” said Tribal Ogema Larry Romanelli, Ogema of the LRBOI. “For the past seven years, we have worked with the Muskegon region to bring viable economic development to both of our communities. This project would jumpstart the local economy and help provide support for expanded tribal government services for our tribal members.”
LRBOI will invest $180 million to build the new casino and economic development project. The project is expected to generate more than 1,200 new jobs in Muskegon County.
The Great Lakes Downs racetrack in Fruitport opened in 1999 and closed in 2007. LRBOI purchased the property in 2008 with plans to build a casino and economic development project. As proposed, the economic development project would include:
- Approximately 69,000 square feet of gaming floor space
- 1,700 slot machines
- 35 table games
- 220-room hotel
- Conference and meeting room space
- Dining and entertainment options
LRBOI opened the Little River Casino Resort in 1999 in Manistee as a tool for economic development and self-sufficiency. The income from the casino has enabled the Tribe to fund numerous important programs for tribal members and to provide employment opportunities for those members residing near the Tribe’s Manistee reservation. But over time, as Michigan tribes have expanded their gaming operations, with half of Michigan tribes operating more than one casino, competition has eroded LRBOI’s income.
“The Band acknowledges this is a long-term investment and we plan to continue to work with the community, state and federal officials to pursue the casino and economic development project to provide much needed jobs and investment in the Muskegon region along with providing revenues to service the needs of our members,” said Tribal Council Speaker Virgil Johnson.
Muskegon County is the home to the Band’s largest population base. Muskegon is one of the Band’s service areas and the Band maintains governmental offices in Muskegon County to serve its members.
The LRBOI has signed a Municipal Services Agreement with Muskegon County and Fruitport Township that includes the Tribe making payments for public safety, sanitary sewer and public water construction and services, as well as for the county court and jail system.
The casino and economic development project has received support from Fruitport Township, Muskegon County, multiple townships and local units of government, Fruitport Public Schools, West Michigan Trade Unions, the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce and local businesses including Lakes Mall. In June 2014, both Fruitport Township and Muskegon County reaffirmed support for the Band’s Muskegon casino with resolutions of support.