FRUITPORT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is allowing an Indian tribe to take some important steps to determine if a casino could be built at a former horse track in Muskegon County.
Snyder spokesman Dave Murray says the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians has the OK to work with the federal government on studies related to the project.
The tribe is proposing a casino, stores and hotels at the former Great Lakes Downs in Fruitport Township, 30 miles northwest of Grand Rapids.
The tribe purchased the former Great Lakes Downs racetrack property near the intersection of I-96 and US-31 in 2008, tribe Director of Public Affairs Glenn Zaring said in a Monday phone interview with 24 Hour News 8, but the project has been on hold since the Granholm administration.
Zaring called Snyder's decision to allow the review by the Bureau of Indian Affairs a "major breakthrough" for the proposed $100 million casino project.
"We are ecstatic that Governor Snyder has made this move in support of consideration of our project in Muskegon. Our tribe is excited about the potential of our proposed resort to help the people of the Muskegon area and Fruitport in particular… an area hard hit by economic challenges over recent years," Tribal Council Speaker Virg Johnson said in a statement.
But Murray cautioned that the governor is not endorsing the project. He says Snyder is a "data-driven governor" who is allowing some initial steps to be taken.
The process could take years.
Sen. Goeff Hansen, a Republican from Hart, says there's support in the community for a casino.
The tribe also operates the Little River Casino and resort in Manistee.
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