3 Michigan tribes oppose Little River Band tribe opening second casino near Muskegon

Muskegon Casino proposed.PNG
3 Michigan tribes oppose Little River Band tribe opening second casino near Muskegon. (WWMT/Courtesy The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians)

For 10 years the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians have tried to build a casino in Fruitport Township, near Muskegon, 90 miles south of the tribe's casino in Manistee.

The Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, Saginaw Chippewa Indians, and Gun Lake tribes, which own casinos in Battle Creek, Mount Pleasant, and Wayland Township, are trying to stop it.

"We're trying to educate our employees that due to this proposed casino, there would be a substantial loss in our ability to provide jobs," said James Nye, a spokesman for the three tribes.

Nye said the casino would result in revenue loss for the other tribes and a loss in revenue they share with their communities.

Gun Lake Casino sent an email encouraging employees to speak out in opposition, labeling the proposed casino as a threat.

"Which I think is unfortunate. You know, from our tribes perspective, we've never been against any other tribes' efforts to get a casino," said Larry Romanelli, Tribal Chairman for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. "Matter of fact, we wrote a letter of support for Gun Lake back in the day and some of these same accusations were used again when Gun Lake was trying to open their casino.”

The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians wanted the land to be designated as lands in trust.

The U.S. Department of the Interior would review the proposal, pending a comment period that was extended at the request of the opposing tribes. Those tribes argue allowing the casino violates rules and sets a precedent for other tribes to build casinos outside of their territories.

Nye said the casino would violate a provision of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

“Section nine simply says the tribe shall not pursue an off reservation casino, unless it has a written agreement with all of the other tribes. Little River has never approached any of the other tribes to try to get a written agreement," Nye said. "We have a problem with that because the Little River Band has been doing gaming in Manistee for 20 years. Now they want to go 100 miles south for nothing more that to get more money."

Romanelli said, "No, it's actually within our nine county area, our service area, and our original historic lands."

If approved federally, then the state house, senate, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer would decide if the casino could be built.