Pokagon Band Wants Class III Gaming Compact with Indiana for Expanding South Bend Casino

Posted on: September 14, 2019, 01:54h. 

Last updated on: September 14, 2019, 02:33h.

The Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi Indians broke ground earlier this week on an expansion project for the tribe’s Four Winds Casino South Bend. However, that’s not the only change the tribe wants to make.

The Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi Indians have started work on a 23-story hotel tower to go with the casino the tribe owns in South Bend, Ind. Tribal officials also have requested to negotiate a compact with Indiana leaders so they can offer Class III gaming, including table games and sports betting. (Image: Four Winds Casino)

Indiana Gaming Commission Executive Director Sara Gonso Tait told Casino.org on Friday that the Pokagon Band requested to start negotiations with state officials on a compact that would allow it to offer Class III gaming at the South Bend venue. Class III gaming includes such table games as blackjack, craps, and roulette. The casino currently offers slot machines and a poker room under its Class II license.

That request came on Aug. 13, Tait said. An attempt to reach a tribal casino spokesperson was unsuccessful.

A Class III license also would allow the tribe to offer sports betting. Earlier this month, Indiana became the 13th state to open retail sportsbooks in the state. Currently, all but one of the 15 state-licensed casinos, racinos, and off-track betting parlors have either opened a sportsbook or are in the process of getting approval to open.

The Four Winds is Indiana’s only tribal gaming facility.

Located in north central Indiana, South Bend is the state’s fourth-largest city. It’s also home to the University of Notre Dame, a traditional college football power with a national fan base. Each Fighting Irish home game brings in more than 77,000 fans to Notre Dame Stadium.

Governor’s Office to Negotiate, Lawmakers Must Ratify

Under Indiana state law, the governor’s office is responsible for negotiating and executing a compact with a tribal nation. However, the law also stipulates that the General Assembly must ratify any compact the state enters into, amends, or modifies.

State lawmakers meet annually in Indianapolis. However, the 2019 session concluded in April. The 2020 session, which will last 30 days, must conclude by March 15.

In November 2016, the US Bureau of Indian Affairs approved an application by the Pokagon Band to take 166 acres of land in South Bend into trust. A month later, construction of the 175,000-square-foot facility started.

The casino officially opened in January 2018. It currently features 1,400 slot machines spread across 140,000 square feet of gaming space. The casino also features three bars, four restaurants, and retail space.

Hotel Work to Take Two Years

In a press release, the Pokagon Gaming Authority, which operates the tribe’s four casinos in Michigan and Indiana, said it plans to construct a 23-story tower hotel that will include 317 rooms. Of the rooms, 83 will be suites. The project also includes several other amenities, including a spa, convention center, a ballroom, and a rooftop pool.

The tribe did not divulge any investment figures in the release. However, officials did say the construction work will create more than 400 jobs, while the expansion will allow the Four Winds to add 100 permanent positions.

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,” said Matthew Wesaw, chairman of the tribal council and president of the Pokagon Gaming Authority.

HBG Design, an architectural firm based in Memphis, Tenn., did the design work. Tribal leaders expect construction to take about two years to complete.