The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians took another step in the hopes of bringing a tribal casino to western Michigan.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) will announce plans to publish a Notice Availability of a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on Friday, detailing the tribe’s request for the federal government to take into trust 60 acres of land at the old Great Lakes Downs horse track in Muskegon.
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Muskegon is located on the shores of Lake Michigan, about 40 miles northwest of Grand Rapids.
In the FEIS, the BIA took into account the Little River Band’s proposed casino project and other economic alternatives. In the end, the BIA found the casino to be the preferred option of the federal government.
"This is an incredible step forward in our process to build the Muskegon County Casino Project,” Larry Romanelli, Ogema of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, said, according to Grand Rapids ABC-TV affiliate WZZM.
A public comment period will take place. The comment period will run for 30 days and permits anyone to send hand-deliver or mail-written comments.
Once the comment period is completed, the federal government will issue its final decision on the application. Then, the tribe will be tasked with negotiating a gaming agreement with Michigan, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the legislature.
In 2019, Michigan’s 12 federally recognized tribes contributed $30.5 million in casino gaming revenue to local government and schools, according to a report published by the Michigan Gaming Control Board.
The casino is expected to bring in 3,000 new jobs into Muskegon, with 1,500 full-time positions and 1,500 construction and ancillary jobs. The proposed gaming and economic development includes:
The new casino in Muskegon would be the second for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. The tribe already has a facility in Manistee, the Little River Casino Resort.
In July, Little River Casino introduced its sportsbook through a partnership with Rush Street Interactive. Rush Street will also have access to the online market in Michigan and plans to launch a co-branded online sports betting and online casino statewide as soon as Michigan online gaming is launched.
"The successful track record of Rush Street Interactive as a provider of in-casino sportsbooks in Pennsylvania, New York and Illinois, was very significant to us when we chose them as our partner," Andrew Gentile, general manager of Little River Casino Resort, said in a media release in July. "Rush Street's ability to provide a road map of how they've enabled other land-based casinos to operate market-leading sportsbooks kept us from having to reinvent the wheel."