The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians recently filed a five-inches-thick application at the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ regional office in Minneapolis to have a 60-acre tract at the former Great Lakes Downs racetrack taken into trust for a proposed 0 million off-reservation casino and retail development in Fruitport Township, Michigan. Tribal officials said the project would create more than 1,200 new jobs in Muskegon County.
Little River Band Tribal Ogema Larry Romanelli said, “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 jump-start the local economy and help provide support for expanded tribal government services for our tribal members.”
The tribe currently operates Manistee’s Little River Casino Resort in Manistee, which it opened in 1999. Since then, more than 20 other Michigan tribes have opened or expanded their gaming operations, which has caused the Little River Band’s income to drop, tribal leaders said.
Romanelli said the application will be reviewed by the Department of the Interior and if it meets all the requirements, the department will publish a notice of intent to take the land into trust. Romanelli said he hopes that will occur this spring.
The Great Lakes Downs racetrack in Fruitport opened in 1999 and closed in 2007. The tribe bought the property in 2008. The proposed casino project would include 69,000 square feet of gaming space, 1,700 slot machines, 35 table games, a 220-room hotel, conference and meeting rooms and dining and entertainment areas.