Little River Band sees off-reservation casino as boost for revenue

Artist's rendering of proposed off-reservation casino in Fruitport Township, Michigan. Image from Little River Band

The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians is promoting an off-reservation casino in Michigan as a path to self-sufficiency.

The tribe operates the Little River Casino Resort in Manistee. But competition from other gaming facilities has "eroded" revenues there, the tribe said in a land-into-trust application obtained by MLive Muskegon Chronicle.

"As a consequence, the tribe's ability to service the needs of its members has decreased, particularly for the majority of members who do not live in the immediate vicinity of the tribe's Manistee lands," the document stated, MLive Muskegon Chronicle reported.

The $180 million project in Fruitport Township, about 92 miles from Manistee, could help alleviate the situation. In addition to providing 1,200 permanent jobs, the tribe expects to draw 1.8 million visitors to the facility every year to a facility that includes a 200-room hotel and conference and meeting space.

"LRBOI has significant and growing unmet needs," the tribe told the Bureau of Indian Affairs, MLive Muskegon Chronicle reported. "Acquisition of the property, and the construction and operation of the proposed project, however, would enable the tribe to address those needs, to overcome the legacy of de facto termination, and to attain true self-sufficiency."

The BIA is preparing an environmental impact statement for the project. The first scoping meeting takes place at the Fruitport Middle School auditorium next Thursday, October 15.

Officials in Fruitport Township and Muskegon County support the casino. But the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe intends to fight it, saying it sets a bad precedent for off-reservation gaming in the state.

"I'm not sure where his comments are coming from, or why," Larry Romanelli, the leader of the Little River Band, told MLive Muskegon Chronicle. "It appears to be about competition. Saginaw Chips are known for opposing other casinos on a regular basis. ... We must be making some headway."

The tribe is pursuing the casino under the two-part determination provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The law gives veto authority to the state governor if the BIA approves it.

Get the Story:
History and business: One tribe's case for a casino in Muskegon County (MLive Muskegon Chronicle 10/8)
How to submit your comments on a proposed Muskegon County tribal casino (MLive Muskegon Chronicle 10/8)

Federal Register Notice:
Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Fruitport Casino Project, Fruitport Township, Muskegon County, Michigan (September 21, 2015)

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