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Public hearing set for Muskegon County casino

Jon Mills/WZZM-TV • Nov 29, 2018 at 11:00 AM

FRUITPORT TWP. — Federal regulators have scheduled a public hearing on the proposed casino at the intersection of U.S. 31 and I-96 in Fruitport Township.

The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12, at the Fruitport Middle School auditorium, 3113 E. Pontaluna Road.

Tribe leaders say the meeting is one of the last major hurdles for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. The tribe would like to invest $180 million at the former Great Lakes Downs property.

The casino that the tribe is proposing would include 69,000 square feet of gaming floor space, 1,700 slot machines, 35 table games and a 220-room hotel.

"It's exciting," said Larry Romanelli, tribal ogema for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.

If all goes as planned, Romanelli believes the casino could open in 2020.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs published the tribe's draft environmental impact statement for the project. The 420-page report is needed for the land at the former horse track to be placed in trust. The tribe purchased the property a decade ago.

The environmental study includes the project's potential effect on land, water resources, air quality, noise and public services.

Besides the public hearing, written comments will be taken through Jan. 7, 2019. Comments can be submitted via email with the subject line "DEIS Comments, Little River Band Trust Acquisition and Casino Project" to Felix Kitto, regional environmental protections specialist, Bureau of Indian Affairs, at [email protected]

Comments can also be mailed to: Midwest Regional Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Midwest Region, Norman Pointe II Building, 5600 W. American Blvd., Suite 500, Bloomington, MN 55347.

If the casino is built, it would create 1,200 new jobs with benefits, supporters say. The project already has the support of Fruitport Township and the Muskegon County Board of Commissioners.

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