The Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi Native Americans is expanding its Four Winds Casino in South Bend, Indiana. The expansion includes a new hotel and more gaming options for players.
The new, 23-story hotel for its casino has big plans.
Matt Wesaw, tribal council chair and president of the Pokagon Gaming Authority, commented on the addition to Inside Indiana Business.
“When we initially submitted our land and trust application to the (U.S.) Bureau of Indian Affairs, we had to submit a complete footprint. That was a very big outline of how big we thought the operation could be.”
What the new addition doesn’t include is table games and sports betting, at least not yet.
Seeking an Indiana sports betting license
Currently, Four Winds holds a Class II license which allows the operation of slot machines and a poker room.
Four Winds already operates a poker room and has a gaming floor that includes over 14,000 slot machines.
Unfortunately, a Class II license doesn’t allow for table games or sports betting. This is obviously a huge consideration as sports betting fever sweeps Indiana.
A Class III license, however, will allow the Indiana casino to expand its gaming options to include such popular table games such as:
More importantly, though, it will allow the Indiana casino to accept sports bets and even open and online sportsbook in Indiana.
Wesaw spoke to the importance of offering a complete gaming experience.
“We’ve been very pleased with the response from the community and the performance of Four Winds South Bend since it opened in January 2018. The expansion will bring to life a variety of exciting features and amenities we envisioned during our original planning process.”
South Bend is home to the University of Notre Dame, the legendary football powerhouse where life revolves around game day.
Sports betting could be a real revenue generator with home games bringing in more than 77,000 fans to Notre Dame Stadium to root on the Fighting Irish.
A Class III gambling license not guaranteed
To get a Class III license the Tribe has several bureaucratic hurdles to go through.
The tribe must meet with the governor’s office to negotiate an agreement to operate a Class III gaming operation and then await the Governor’s approval. After which, according to the Indiana statutes, any compact the state enters into, amends, or modifies must be ratified by the Indiana General Assembly.
According to Indiana Gaming Commission Executive Director Sara Gonso Tait, the tribe put in a formal request to start negotiations with the Governor’s Office on Aug. 13, 2019.
The state has agreed to the Pokagon request and Gov. Eric Holcomb appointed Gonso Tait to lead the negotiating team.
The window for ratification of the agreement, assuming successful negotiation and approval, is small. The Indiana General Assembly’s 2020 session must have the legislative session completed by March 15.
How important is location, anyway?
The Four Winds Casino in South Bend is located in Indiana but the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians is based in Dowagiac, Michigan.
According to Wesaw the difference in location will be a new experience for Indiana’s regulatory process.
“Under Indiana current law, we will hopefully negotiate an agreement … which will be agreed to by the governor, and then it has to go through a legislative approval process.”
The Pokagon Band successfully negotiated the application for the 166 aces Four Winds site in South Bend with the US Bureau of Indian Affairs back in Nov. 2016.
Construction of the 175,000 square-foot casino began just one month later in Dec. 2016. It officially opened two years later in Jan. 2018.
Along with a 140,000 square-foot slot machine area the casino includes:
- Three bars
- Four restaurants
- Retail space
The Four Winds Casino is Indiana’s only Native American-owned gaming venue.
Four Winds building a destination experience
The new addition which began construction in mid-September is also expected to take two years to complete.
In addition to the hotel, the new facility will include:
- Rooftop pool
- Convention center
And hopefully, a sportsbook.
Wesaw sees the Tribes partnership with Indiana as an economic win for everyone.
“Not only is this expansion an important milestone for all Pokagon citizens but it also demonstrates our economic commitment to support the South Bend community.”
The Four Winds is expected to be a job generator for Indiana providing more than 400 construction jobs and an additional 100 permanent positions to staff the addition.
The Pokagon tribe was only recently recognized as a sovereign Native America nation. President Bill Clinton signed the measure recognizing their sovereignty 25 years ago.
The Pokagon Gaming Authority also operates a Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo, Michigan and three additional Four Winds Casinos in Hartford and Dowagiac, Michigan.