Four Winds South Bend Inches Closer To Table Games And Sports Betting

Posted on March 29, 2021

Four Winds Casino is staking its claim to northern Indiana.

The state’s only tribal casino is expanding to offer table games like blackjack, as well as slots and sports betting.

In exchange for a cut of the profits, Indiana won’t allow a competing casino to open within 50 miles of the property.

No new casinos in northern Indiana

The Pokagon Band owns and operates Four Winds Casino in South Bend, Indiana.

Outside of Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, Four Winds is the only gambling option for most of northern Indiana.

That won’t be changing anytime soon thanks to the Pokagon Band’s new Tribal-State Compact.

The state can’t add a new casino within 50 miles of Four Winds without voiding the compact. That buffer zone includes 16 different counties around South Bend.

In short, the deal freezes the gaming scene in northern Indiana.

Even existing casinos in the area will not be allowed to move inland.

That means riverboat gambling spots such as Horseshoe Hammond cannot transition into new land-based buildings.

Majestic Star Casino is the most recent example of such a move.

Majestic Star is moving into the new Hard Rock Casino in May. Once that is complete, it will be the last move of its kind in the area.

But why give Four Winds a special protection zone like this?

The state is giving up future casino projects in exchange for some new tax revenue.

Indiana taxing tribal casino

Since Four Winds is a tribal casino, it doesn’t have to pay any taxes to Indiana.

The building in on sovereign land, so Four Winds can play by its own rules.

The Pokagon Band is essentially allowing taxation in exchange for the protection zone and Class III gaming.

Under the new agreement, Four Winds will give up 8% of its revenue to Indiana with another 2% going to the city of South Bend.

Adding table games and slots to Four Winds is what makes the deal viable for both sides.

The Pokagon Band is willing to pay taxes since the new gaming additions will more than make up for the lost income. Indiana is willing to provide the buffer zone in exchange for the extra tax money.

Four Winds could end up generating around $12 million in annual tax revenue for the state.

Pokagon Band works with Indiana

The deal between Four Winds and the state was more or less inevitable.

If Indiana didn’t want to play ball, then the Pokagon Band could have gone directly to the federal government to get approval for table games.

The agreement keeps both sides working together for now.

Everyone makes more money from the deal, and all Indiana had to give up was the exclusion zone for new casinos.

Most of the area in that 50-mile radius is rural and sparsely populated.

With no plans to add another casino there anytime soon, Indiana figured that the new ban wasn’t much of a concession.

The revenue sharing agreement will become void if Indiana ever decides to expand an existing casino in northern Indiana or build a new one. Both sides will have to negotiate new terms.

The new deal finally has Four Winds leveling up to become a full-fledged competitor in Indiana’s gambling industry.

How things will change at Four Winds South Bend Casino

Right now, Four Winds doesn’t have Class III gaming.

In other words, gamblers at the casino can only play games against each other, rather than against the house. So poker and electronic bingo are available, but not games like blackjack or slot machines.

The casino’s new deal with Indiana will change that.

Table games and even a sportsbook will be available at Four Winds.

The property will be happy to finally offer a full selection of casino games, but it will also have to follow the state’s casino rules.

Those rules will force Four Winds to ban chronic gamblers, and will prohibit other things such as serving free drinks.

All things considered, jumping through a few extra hoops will be worth it for the Pokagon Band.

As the only casino in the area, Four Winds is in a unique position to dominate northern Indiana for years to come.

Indiana lawmakers have to approve the deal before it becomes official. That vote will take place during the state’s current legislative session, which runs through April 29.

Photo by Associated Press
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Jake Garza

Jake Garza is a sports writer based in Indianapolis, IN. He's an Indiana University graduate who's spent time as a sports reporter covering teams at the prep, collegiate and professional levels.

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