Whitmer Nixes Little River Band Of Ottawa Indians Casino Plans

After a sometimes frenzied 14-year drive by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has decided against allowing the tribe to construct an off-reservation casino in Fruitport. 

Whitmer cited as a reason the lack of clarity from federal officials on whether they will acknowledge the Grand River Band of Ottawa Indians as its own federally protected tribe. The Grand River Band claims the land the Little River Band wants to build on belongs instead to it. 

“The Department of the Interior first needs to decide whether they are providing federal recognition to the neighboring Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians,” Whitmer said in a statement, according to numerous media reports Wednesday. “It is critical to have this information before making an informed decision. Without that information, I am unable to concur at this time and remain disappointed in the Department’s lack of flexibility in this process.”

Whitmer had asked Tuesday for an extension of the federal deadline of June 16 for her to act, saying it would be impossible to make an informed decision without the federal government making its ruling first concerning recognition of the Grand River Band.

The rejected plan

The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians has hoped to construct a $180 million casino on land that was the previous home of the Great Lakes Downs Racetrack in Fruitport.

“I realize that this non-concurrence is disappointing to the Little River Band and to supporters in the local community, and I am mindful of the significant amount of time and investment that went into this proposal,” Whitmer continued in her statement. “My commitment to creating good-paying jobs and economic development in Muskegon is unwavering, and I’ll stand side by side with anyone, including leaders like Representative Terry Sabo who is a fighter for working families and the Muskegon community.”

Whitmer did say she would revisit the decision pending the federal decision concerning the Grand River Band.

However, if granted acknowledgement by the federal government, the Grand River Band could conceivably build its own casino on the property — and also potentially become the 16th online sportsbook and/or casino in the state.

Photo: Shutterstock

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Author: Bradley King