Gov. Holcomb Ratifies Gaming Compact With Pokagon, Four Winds Casino

Posted on May 7, 2021

The Four Winds location in South Bend is one step away from becoming a full-fledged casino.

Gov. Holcomb made the trip up north this week to ratify the state’s tribal compact with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.

That compact will bring Class III gaming to the casino once it receives final approval from the US Department of Interior. There’s a 45-day window for the government to make that happen.

Four Winds South Bend table games

Right now at Four Winds, you can only play games that pit you against other players.

That’s a big change from the typical casino experience where visitors gamble against the house.

Adding Class III gaming to Four Winds will normalize the experience of gambling there.

It allows Four Winds to add blackjack, roulette, craps, slot machines and other classic casino options.

Those are among the most popular games for casino goers around the US, so adding them into the mix should be a success for Four Winds.

The casino is also adding a sportsbook to the building, which could be a big hit in South Bend thanks to gambling on Notre Dame football.

Four Winds is the only tribal casino in Indiana. The rest of the state’s gambling locations are all owned by companies like Caesars and Penn National Gaming.

Before long, Four Winds will be on an even playing field with the state’s commercial casinos.

Getting to this point took a long time.

The Pokagon Band originally sent in a request to get the process started back in 2019.

Then, negotiations had to take place.

After coming to an agreement on the compact, the Indiana General Assembly finally gave everything the green light last month.

The state’s side of the deal is official now that Gov. Holcomb has singed the bill.

Both sides benefit from tribal compact

Everyone wins with the new tribal compact agreement.

The Pokagon Band gets table games at its casino, and Indiana will get 8% of the property’s slot revenue. Plus, northern Indiana residents have a new gambling option to pick from.

The tax dollars are what makes this a solid deal for the state.

Indiana can’t collect taxes from Four Winds since the casino operates on sovereign land.

The tribal-state compact will change that.

Four Winds was willing to give up the tax money in exchange for adding table games.

The profits from those games should more than make up for the Pokagon Band’s tax losses.

South Bend is the fourth-largest city in the state, and it’s also the home of Notre Dame University.

That, combined with the lack of outside competition nearby, should make Four Winds a popular gambling hot spot in the area.

Four Winds and Hard Rock Northern Indiana

The deal is helping the Pokagon Band secure its market share in the northern part of the state.

The compact includes a 50-mile exclusion zone around Four Winds Casino, which will help keep the rest of the competition at bay.

Right now, the closest casino to Four Winds is Blue Chip over in Michigan City.

Blue Chip will be the only competition nearby for the foreseeable future.

Thanks to the compact, no new casinos can open or move inland from a riverboat within the exclusion zone.

The exception to that rule is Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana, which is having its grand opening in Gary next week.

That brand new land-based property is replacing the old Majestic Star Casino riverboats.

Hard Rock gets to squeeze by since the company was already deep in the process of making the move happen before the state agreed to the compact.

However, there will be no more exceptions to the buffer zone around Four Winds.

In other words, don’t expect a new casino to open up anytime soon in the top half of the state.

The compact will automatically become void if Indiana ever decides to break the exclusion zone rule.

The agreement between the Pokagon Band and Indiana will last for 20 years assuming that things go off without a hitch

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Jake Garza

Jake Garza is a US Gambling Industry Analyst for Catena Media. He specializes in Midwest sports betting and casino content. Prior to covering the legal gambling industry, he spent time as a professional sports writer, reporting on teams such as the Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacers. Garza is currently working as a Managing Editor for PlayIndiana and PlayOhio, with previous stops at other well-known brands such as PlayIllinois and PlayMichigan. He has been covering the gambling industry since 2019, and currently works with a team of other journalists to provide comprehensive coverage of the legal U.S. gambling industry.

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