FRUITPORT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — More residents voiced approval than opposition to a proposed casino in Muskegon County at a packed meeting on Thursday.
The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians wants to build the casino and hotel on the site of the former Great Lakes Downs racetrack in Fruitport Township. If built, it would include 69,000 square feet of gaming space with more than 1,700 slot machines and 35 gaming tables. The hotel would have 220 rooms. It’s a $180 million project that would result in a venue close in size to FireKeepers Casino near Battle Creek.
The tribe held a public meeting on Thursday for community members to voice their concerns, which will be passed along to the federal government as it reviews the project.
A few hundred people attended the meeting in the Fruitport Middle School auditorium. Among them were community leaders including mayors, city commissioners and state Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright. All of them were in favor of the casino, citing economic benefits.
“I’m here to enthusiastically express support for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and their proposal to construct a casino within the boundaries of the Fruitport school district,” Fruitport Community Schools Superintendent Bob Szymoniak said.
Muskegon County has been suffering high unemployment and poverty rates in recent years. The tribe says the casino and hotel would create about 1,200 new jobs and provide a tourism destination.
But some citizens are concerned that the casino will be a curse rather than a blessing, causing the poor to become poorer and crime to increase.
“Have you given thought to the violent crime rate of the community?” one resident wondered. “Where there is gambling, there is crime, but I’m primarily concerned about crime in the neighborhood after people have lost everything.”
The casino isn’t a done deal. The federal government has a up to three years to determine whether the plan moves forward.
If you would like to share your comments about the proposed casino and hotel, you can email environmental protection specialist Scott Doig at Scott.Doig@bia.gov or call him at 621.725.4514.