Indiana, Pokagon Tribe Reach Agreement on Class III Compact for South Bend Casino

Posted on: January 21, 2021, 08:11h. 

Last updated on: January 22, 2021, 09:42h.

Indiana’s lone tribal casino is one step closer to being able to offer sports betting and other Class III games.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb speaks at a July 2018 ceremonial bill signing at the Indiana Minority Health Coalition in Indianapolis. On Thursday, Holcomb and Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians Chairman Matthew Wesaw announced the state and tribe reached an agreement on a compact that would allow Class III gaming at the Pokagon Band’s Four Winds Casino in South Bend. (Image: Gov. Eric Holcomb/Flickr)

Late Thursday afternoon, Gov. Eric Holcomb and Matthew Wesaw, chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians announced the two sides concluded negotiations on a tribal gaming compact, a first for Indiana.

The Pokagon operate a Four Winds Casino, a Class II venue, in South Bend on sovereign property

The compact comes nearly 18 months after the tribe made the request to start discussions. That was also the time Indiana was preparing to launch sports betting at its state-licensed commercial casinos.

(T)his compact was executed in accordance with state law and federal law and obligations and recognizes the sovereign rights of both the State of Indiana and the Pokagon Band,” the joint statement read. “It demonstrates the value of our ongoing government-to-government relationship and the commitment of each party to fulfill their responsibilities to their citizens while working cooperatively to comply with all applicable laws.”

Indiana state lawmakers must approve the compact. The General Assembly will get a chance to explain certain terms within the agreement. After the state’s approval, the US Department of Interior will need to ratify it before it can take effect.

Compact Calls for Revenue Sharing

Besides sports betting, the compact allows Four Winds to offer other Class III games currently available at the commercial casinos. That includes baccarat, blackjack, banked poker games, roulette, craps, and big six wheels.

Class III slot machines also operate differently than Class II machines. The latter at tribal casinos are technically electronic bingo games, which groups players into pools and uses the outcome of a bingo game to determine winners.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Pokagon band will agree to share 10 percent of its revenue with government entities. The state would get 8 percent of the net win from all slot machines. South Bend would continue to receive the 2 percent share it receives through a prior agreement.

Of the state’s share, $1 million will go to create a fund allowing Pokagon members to attend public universities, community colleges, and workforce training centers.

The compact is set to run for 20 years, with renewals every 10 years after that.

Indiana Legislature to Decide “Off-Reservation” Gaming

South Bend is the state’s fourth-largest city. It’s also home to the University of Notre Dame, one of the more popular college football programs in the country. Each home game during a normal college football season without COVID-19 social distancing restrictions can attract more than 77,000 fans.

According to the compact, Four Winds would be allowed to offer sports betting and daily fantasy sports games. The tribe may offer them on mobile platforms, but patrons must physically be at the casino to take part.

Last July, the Potawatomi Indians picked Kambi Group to serve as its sports betting provider in Michigan. That’s where the tribe operates three Class III casinos in the southwestern corner of the Lower Peninsula.

The three Four Winds locations in Michigan currently host retail sportsbooks.

The compact does not address “off-reservation” sports betting or iGaming. A fact sheet provided along with the agreement said the General Assembly would determine that, and that issue would also remain separate from the compact. Even if lawmakers approve, there may be federal hurdles to clear when it comes to the tribal casino to offer mobile gaming.