Little River Band hopeful after off-reservation casino hearing

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

The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians in Michigan feels more optimistic about its off-reservation casino after the public showed strong support for the project.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs hosted the first meeting on the $180 million casino in Fruitport Township last Thursday. Although a final decision is years away, the tribe's ogema -- or leader -- was happy with the positive turnout.

"For me, it went better than I even expected," Ogema Larry Romanelli told MLive Muskegon Chronicle.

The BIA will be preparing the environmental impact statement for the project and could issue a scoping report this winter. The document will be followed a draft EIS, more public comments and then a final EIS.

Sometime after that, the BIA would issue a record of decision. If the agency approves, the final say rests with the state's governor because the tribe is pursuing the development under the two-part determination provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

"They've got a long, long way to go, just to get a yes or no from the federal government," James Nye, a spokesperson for the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe, whose leaders oppose off-reservation gaming, told MLive.

In June 2013, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) refused to agree to an off-reservation casino for the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. The decision, while not surprising, was somewhat unusual because the tribe wanted to move one of its casinos closer to the reservation.

Since IGRA became law in 1988, only three tribes have completed both steps of the two-part determination process.

Get the Story:
From 'possibility' to 'probability,' tribe looks forward for tribal casino (MLive Muskegon Chronicle 10/17)
See what 20 people had to say at Muskegon County casino public hearing (MLive Muskegon Chronicle 10/16)

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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Little River Band sees off-reservation casino as boost for revenue (10/8)
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe vows fight over off-reservation casino (9/29)
Little River Band sees strong support for off-reservation casino (9/24)
Little River Band remains committed to off-reservation casino (9/23)
BIA sets hearing on Little River Band off-reservation casino bid (9/21)

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