The popularity of sports betting in the state of Indiana has not gone unnoticed in South Bend.
The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, which runs Four Winds Casino Resort and is the only non-commercial casino in the state, has made a request to the state of Indiana to enter negotiations for a gaming compact to expand to include Class III betting. That includes both table games and sports betting, with the latter having started in the state Sept. 1 after becoming law earlier in 2019.
According to the Times of Northwest Indiana, Pokagon Band Tribal Chairman Matthew Wesaw sent a letter dated Aug. 13 to Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb asking to “make arrangements to initiate our discussions.” Holcomb assigned the state’s gaming commission, led by executive director Sara Tait, to negotiate on Indiana’s behalf. With the Pokagon Band a federally recognized tribe, Four Winds does not operate under the terms set by the Indiana Gaming Commission and is not required to pay state taxes.
“They have made the request to begin the process,” Tait confirmed. “The governor’s role is to enter negotiations, and I am the point person. The state has done its due diligence and we’re engaging in the process pursuant to our obligations.”
Hashing it out?
Per the federal codes of Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the state is required to conduct the Class III compact negotiations “in good faith.” The compact negotiating process would have to be approved by both the governor and the state’s General Assembly, an additional step made under a law passed by the General Assembly in 2015 when the Pokagon Band first began considering Indiana as a potential site for a casino.
The compact would then go to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs for final approval.
The Pokagon Band previously announced expansion plans for Four Winds in September that included a 23-story hotel tower with 317 rooms, including 83 suites, and a convention center scheduled to be completed by September 2021. The 175k-square foot casino, which opened in January 2018, currently offers 1,400 slot-style bingo machines, bingo, pull-tabs, and 10 poker tables. Class III betting would introduce actual slot machines and table games in addition to sports betting.
The Pokagon Band, which has 166 acres of federally recognized tribal land in South Bend, also operates casinos in New Buffalo, Hartford, and Dowagiac in Michigan. That state has yet to approve sports betting but a bill passed through Michigan’s House of Representatives in late October.
Indiana’s 10 casinos that conduct sports betting reported a collective handle of just under $91.7 mm in October, a figure greatly aided with the availability of mobile sports betting via three of the casinos. Should the negotiations be successful, Four Winds would be the sixth casino in the Northwest Indiana region to offer the combination of sports betting, table games, and slot machines.