Native American tribes are known for their tribal casino operation, but sometimes making dreams come true takes longer than initially planned. Such is the case of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians that might have to wait until mid-2019 for the US Department of Interior to place former Great Lakes Down racetrack’s land in Fruitport Township into federal trust.
Over the past four years, the federally recognized Native American tribe of the Odawa people in the United States has been working towards achieving one of its long-term goals of launching casino operation in Michigan. The tribe itself is based in Manistee and Mason counties in the northwestern part of the state meaning that the casino would be located outside its reservation lands. The ultimate goal at this point would be the tribe to obtain the 60-acre land lot into federal trust and have the chance to transform the area into a vibrant casino hotspot.
Off-Reservation Casinos Are Controversial
The ultimate decision of the US Department of Interior was expected around April or May and the tribe was looking forward to this turn of events, as it would have been beneficial for the speed at which the project develops. However, the government shutdown that revolved around disagreement on border security between Republicans and Democrats which ended this Monday is projected to delay the process even further and extend the waiting game for the tribe. The shutdown lasted for 35 days making it the longest one up until now.
This gaming project is going to cost projected US$180 million to its developer and the tribe is expected to see quite the financial boost from future gaming operation on site of the facility. Members of the tribe would enjoy the security of a steady income and permanent employment, while the Native American community itself would be positively impacted by the financial support for various projects and services across the tribe. Tribe Ogema Larry Romanelli stated recently that the tribe might have to wait for several more months.
At this point, the only thing left for the US Department of Interior is to examine the filed comments made by the participants in the public hearing of October 2015. Michigan residents had the chance to cast their opinion and introduce valid arguments in support or against the project. More recently, December 12 saw another public hearing giving them until January 7 to express their position. The prevalent part of the comments showed that the community supports the move. Waiting, in this case, is inevitable, as placing the land in trust is a mandatory step in the process of casino venue construction.
Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Tribe Await Final Decision
Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Tribe purchased the 60 acres of land in 2008 and ever since then it has been working towards achieving its goal. What should be pointed out is that the number of people temporarily and permanently employed by the tribe could potentially surpass the 2,000 mark, including both construction work and the casino operation once it launches. If building of the venue begins in a timely manner this year, the new facility could welcome its first casino patrons in 2020.
There are some 12 tribes within the state and they oversee operation of 26 gaming venues and most of them are reservation ones. Some tribes oppose expansion beyond the tribal reservation limits whereas supporters of this move state that the local economy is going to be positively affected. At the moment casino operation amasses some US$400 million for the state which would eventually increase with additional gaming facilities.
Development in Fruitport Township is going to bring the area some 1,700 slot machines, 35 gaming tables, and a 220-room hotel offering accommodation to both tourists and casino patrons. Dining experience would also be featured for an extra special time on site and to bring the family-friendly factor. If approval is received, the state of Michigan would have the final say, but right now projections are positive.