Earlier in August, the Four Winds Casino in South Bend, Indiana had a ribbon-cutting ceremony to debut its new gaming floor.
Michigan-based Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians first opened the casino in 2018. And the casino expansion was announced in 2019. The expanded gaming area is just one part of a larger expansion that Four Winds has undertaken.
The overall Four Winds Casino expansion project includes the addition of a hotel that’s set to open in 2023.
Four Winds Casino expansion adds 40,000 square feet of space
Now measuring in at 98,000 square feet overall, the expanded Indiana casino gaming floor has more games, such as:
- 11 new table games – including blackjack and craps
- A section dedicated to video poker
- 850 additional slot machines
Four Winds’ gaming floor now houses 27 total table games and 1,900 slot machines.
Frank Freedman, Four Winds’ Chief Operating Officer, says that even more table games may be in the casino’s future. “We recently became a Class III operation and we added table games,” he said.
Referring to the 2021 gaming compact signed between the state of Indiana and the Pokagon Band he commented: “So, as we watch that piece of business, we may want to reassess and add in more table games.”
Four Winds to open the largest hotel in St. Joseph County in 2023
Still underway, the second phase of the Four Winds expansion is the addition of a 23-story hotel adjacent to the Four Winds Casino.
It will be one of the tallest buildings in St. Joseph County, second only to the 25-story Liberty Tower. The hotel will include:
- 317 guest rooms
- Executive suites
- Conference space
- Event spaces, including a ballroom
- A restaurant
- A day spa
The entire third floor of the hotel will be dedicated to housing a reception space, a private pool, and four luxury suites.
According to Freedman, the vision is to rent out this entire floor to those needing entertaining space after conferences. “The floor has great views, big rooms, bars, a pool, a restaurant,” he said. “It’s something I think that the area just hasn’t seen yet.”
The hotel project will bring more tourism revenue and jobs to South Bend
The overall vision of the expansion is to bring more out-of-town business to South Bend. Freedman says 70-75% of the casino’s current business is local.
But he believes the hotel amenities being added will appeal to guests from Indianapolis and Fort Wayne. “And we’re vibrantly busy already, so we’re really excited about reaching those new markets,” he said.
Even non-gaming events will generate business for the hotel and casino, which Freedman said they have been unable to host at the location in New Buffalo.
“We have requests for those types of events, but we’re limited, based on the physical plant there, in being able to accommodate that kind of business,” he said.
The Pokagon Band’s newest Tribal Council Chairperson, Rebecca Richards, says the project will be beneficial for both the tribe and the community and said:
“The expanded resort brings an amenity and an entertainment experience to South Bend and Northwest Indiana that we didn’t have before.”
Not only will the project bring tourism revenue to the city, but it will also bring jobs. The Pokagon Band says 350 construction jobs have already been generated. And up to 400 new casino resort jobs will become available when construction is finished.
Pandemic and workforce delays on hotel project “worth it”
The expansion project broke ground in September of 2019 and was expected to be a two-year project overall. But the pandemic shutdowns and worker shortages brought significant delays.
“COVID messed up the construction timelines, plus the cost, to be quite honest with you,” Former Tribal Council Chairman, Matt Wesaw said last August. “And the shortage of labor. It pushed us back many months.”
The whole endeavor appears to now be a three-year project overall, but Richards doesn’t think the delay is all bad and said:
“It gave us time to analyze where we were with the project, making sure that we had any necessary changes that were needed and those supply issues. And it gave us time to just restructure, and re-energize the project. Yes, it did help.”
The Pokagon Band says the hotel project is set to be completed in late 2022 with a grand opening in 2023’s first quarter.