FRUITPORT TWP., Mich. - The public weighed in on plans for a casino in Muskegon County Thursday night. The $180 million project has been proposed by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. They currently have one casino, the Little River Casino in Manistee.
The new casino would be at the site of the former Great Lakes Downs racetrack in Fruitport. Federal officials held a public hearing at the Fruitport Middle School Auditorium Thursday evening.
About 50 people spoke at the meeting, and for every 11 people for it there were three against it.
With the county's unemployment rate at 5.8 percent, Rep. Marcia Hovey Wright of the 92nd District pressed the issue of jobs. "We do have a problem with that our rate is higher than the state average," Hovey said. "Our rate is higher than the communities around us like Ottawa county, Kent County. I do think it will make a difference. 1,200 jobs is nothing to sneeze at."
Others had a different view.
"Certainly I am opposed to this project as a representative for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribe, and the Saginaw Chippewas is against off-reservation gaming, which is exactly what this project is," said James Nye.
Nye also said the Little River Band already has a successful casino in Manistee, and this venture is just reservation shopping.
The Little River Band claims their largest population base is in Muskegon, but Nye said they are venturing off their reservation land and trying to claim a new area of land that wasn't theirs to take.
Wright sees it as an opportunity for growth.
"I can't tell you anyone who's opposed to it. I know it will help economic development."