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A decade later, a casino in Fruitport Township now looks certain

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After years of speculation and red tape, a proposed casino in Muskegon County is now an almost certainty after officials reached a key milestone in the process.

Talks of a casino in Fruitport Township have been going on for a decade, but the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians has had to overcome a number of hurdles in the process, including pushback from other Michigan tribes like Gun Lake.

Those tribes argued that its unfair for the Little River Band to own and operate, (Little River already owns and operates a casino up north in Manistee) and it’s a breach of an agreement that everyone signed years ago: that every tribe would only get one casino each.

However, that agreement was not a legally binding one, so Little River Band officials forged ahead with plans for the casino to be built where the old Great Lakes Downs track once stood. The $180 million project reached a pivotal milestone this month, when the Bureau of Indian Affairs pushed through a Final Environmental Impact Statement for federal approval, which is expected to pass in the next two months.

With Muskegon County having one of the highest unemployment rates in the state of Michigan, most officials are extremely excited about the project as it would create thousands of jobs along the lakeshore, while boosting the economy along Harvey Street in Fruitport, near the failing Lakes Mall.

“In a nutshell it’s all about jobs and economic development and this project will bring all of that,” State House Representative Terry Sabo said. “So when you are talking about a county that has the highest unemployment rate in the state, that is a big deal.”

Officials say the casino and 220 room hotel would double property values in the area, and hope to have it finished within three years.

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