MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has less than a month to approve the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians casino project.
The tribe has worked on the project for more than 12 years. If approved, the now vacant Great Lakes Downs racetrack will soon be home to a 70,000 square-foot casino and a 220-room hotel.
On Friday, nearly a hundred people gathered to support tribal leaders. The project has fostered bipartisan support with state Rep. Terry Sabo, D-Muskegon, and state Sen. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo, in attendance.
“They have done everything that local government, state government and federal government has asked,” Sabo said. “Personally, I think it is time to grant them what they rightfully have coming to them. That’s the opportunity to start that casino here on this property.”
Whitmer filed for a one-time six-month extension to the approval deadline last December. Her new deadline for approval is June 16.
Muskegon Heights City Manager Troy Bell said if the casino is approved the city’s water filtration plant will provide all water to the new business.
“We see this as an opportunity and partnership with the tribe,” Bell said.
In addition, Bell hopes his blighted community will benefit from new jobs and needed housing.
“As long as the people are still there, all we need is the opportunity. This casino represents that opportunity,” he said.
Several supporters said they fear the governor is getting pressure from competing businesses.
“I think that there are a lot of people who are kind of on the fence,” Sid McCarty said. “They think Governor Whitmer is trying to adhere to those on the east side of the state not so much here in West Michigan.”
Whitmer said she is “concerned that the Department of Interior has not been very clear about some of the future decisions that they will be making. I am going to be asking them for some clarity because I think that’s very pertinent to ultimately rendering a decision by the deadline.”