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Bumstead, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians hold press conference on Muskegon County casino denial

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Jon Bumstead, Tribal Ogema of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Larry Romanelli, Muskegon Heights City Manager Troy Bell, and Phyllis Loudermill, a Muskegon area business leader, spoke at a press conference at the Capitol Thursday to discuss Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s decision to cancel the tribe’s proposed Muskegon casino.

“I am extremely disappointed, angered, and let down by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s decision to kill 3,000 good-paying jobs by denying the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians’ request to build a casino in Muskegon — a plan that has been in the making for 12 years,” said Bumstead, R-North Muskegon. “The fact is, this has been the governor’s decision to make for over a year, and it is now hers alone to own. Her attempts to shift blame are laughable given the project’s virtually unanimous support from here all the way to Washington, D.C.”

Estimates indicated the project would have created 1,500 construction jobs and 1,500 high-paying full-time jobs, and upon completion, would have attracted 1.8 million visitors and generated $15 million in tax revenue for the state and millions more for local governments.

“This decision sends the message that Muskegon County and Muskegon Heights don’t matter, and that is what is concerning — in my community, we are overlooked, underserved, and financially distressed,” Bell said. “Through this process, we have developed a strong, bold partnership with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and my heart goes out to them. Twelve years working on this, millions of dollars invested, and a chance to bring this innovative concept to our region and to have it go up, just like that — I feel not only for them, but also for what it means to Muskegon Heights and Muskegon County. I am sincerely disappointed.”

Bumstead said state and local officials, as well as countless residents, have voiced support for the project, which had been years in the making. After a lengthy approval process, the federal government gave the go-ahead in December 2020. Since the federal government’s approval, the decision on whether to proceed had been on Whitmer’s desk.

“Our project has gone through three presidential administrations and they all said go forward. We’ve been through two governors in Gov. Granholm and Gov. Snyder, and they said go forward,” Romanelli said. “To have this happen now is a disappointment.”

“It is unfortunate that the governor is playing politics with people’s lives and livelihoods,” Bumstead said. “Our residents are struggling right now to afford everyday essentials. The 3,000 jobs that the governor canceled would have been tremendous in helping West Michigan families, businesses, and communities. Instead of helping, the governor capitulated to her political allies from southeast Michigan, leaving Muskegon in the wake. This decision to reject the casino was not in the best interest of Michiganders and on behalf of the residents of my district and of West Michigan: Shame on you, Gov. Whitmer.”

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Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Tribal Ogema Larry Romanelli speaks at a press conference Thursday on Gov. Whitmer’s decision to cancel the tribe’s Muskegon casino project.

Sen. Jon Bumstead speaks at a press conference Thursday on Gov. Whitmer’s decision to cancel the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians’ Muskegon casino project.