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Tribe expecting Gov. Whitmer to ask for extension before making casino project decision

Little River Band of Ottawa Indians' Ogema says Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will use a six-month extension moving casino decision deadline from Dec. 16 to June 16.

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians may be waiting for another six-month to find out if a $180 million casino can be built on the former Great Lakes Downs Racetrack in Fruitport Township.

The U.S. Department of Interior placed the property in trust in December 2020 starting a one-year countdown for approval at the state level.

To move forward the project needs Governor Gretchen Whitmer's support. The U.S. Department of Interior placed a Dec. 16 deadline for a decision from the governor but also allows for a six-month extension if requested. 

Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Tribal Ogema Larry Romanelli tells 13 ON YOUR SIDE the governor will be asking for the extension.

"That's the final extension, this is it," Romanelli said. "We've been at this for 12-years. It's not my favorite option."

Romanelli says the U.S. Department of Interior will need to decide before December 16 if the extension will be granted.

"I think the Department of Interior will get a letter and then respond to that within the next week," Romanelli said. "We've been in contact with the governor's office. She's got a lot on her plate and it looks like that's the direction we're going. That's as much as I can say right now."

If built the casino in Fruitport Township it would be the tribe's second casino, it already operates the Little River Casino just north of Manistee. 

Supporters say it would attract 2 million visitors to Muskegon County each year and create between 1,500 and 3,000 jobs. The project includes a 220-room hotel. 

Opposition to the Fruitport Township casino project is mostly from the east side of the state where all three Detroit casinos, the Wayne County Board of Commissioners, and Detroit City Council have all made their objections public. Leaders from three other Michigan tribes have also voiced opposition to a casino in Muskegon County.


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