Four Winds Casino in South Bend could soon see its stock skyrocket in the eyes of Hoosier gamers.
The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi operate the state’s only tribal casino. The Tribe has reached an agreement with Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration to expand to Class III gaming.
The expansion would allow Four Winds to add live table games, slot machines, and sports betting.
Four Winds likely to get more attractive for casino-goers
The South Bend casino is currently limited to bingo-style gaming machines and a poker room. Poker room patrons can only play against each other and not the house.
That could soon change.
A year-and-a-half after first petitioning the state for Class III gaming status, the Pokagon Band and Indiana officials agreed on a tribal-state compact authorizing the expansion.
Holcomb and Pokagon Band Chairman Matthew Wesaw both signed the compact. Indiana lawmakers must also approve it during this year’s legislative session before Four Winds can enact changes.
“The Pokagon Band are important partners in our community, and I am committed to working with the tribe along with local and state leaders to best support our area’s economic development,” added Rep. Jake Teshka, whose district houses Four Winds.
“While I have not had the chance to review the compact just yet, I recognize this deal could have great success in St. Joseph County. I look forward to thoughtfully evaluating the compact with my legislative colleagues for ratification.”
If approved, the 20-year agreement would permit Four Winds to offer games like blackjack, roulette, baccarat, craps, and more.
State would see significant funds from expansion
As part of the compact, the Pokagon Band agreed to pay the state 8% of slot machine winnings. The Tribe will continue its existing 2% payments to the city of South Bend.
If the deal continues unaltered, it is much better than the taxes paid by Indiana’s non-tribal casinos.
Any time a casino expands, it means increased competition.
The compact is likely to stiffen competition in northern Indiana, specifically for Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City. Blue Chip is situated near another Four Winds in New Buffalo, Michigan.
The compact also covers competition against Four Winds. Officials agreed the Band will not have to make revenue payments if the state approves a new casino within a 50-mile, 16-county radius.
The agreement, which does not affect casino construction in Gary, would also limit potential expansion opportunities for existing casinos in the area.
What is each side saying?
Indiana Gaming Commission Executive Director Sara Tait told INBetting Wednesday that negotiators from the state and Band will wait to provide comment on “specific compact terms” until the public ratification process.
Tait did provide a brief statement:
“Federal and state law require the Governor to negotiate a tribal-state compact in good faith. The executed compact comes after many months of negotiations and hard work. The State team took great measures to ensure this compact complies with all state and federal laws and includes provisions permissible under federal law.”
Tait said state officials continue “to be committed to an ongoing and productive relationship with the Pokagon Band.”
Pokagon Band official David Gutierrez reiterated Tait’s position, saying the Band “isn’t providing comment at this time as the legislative process to review the compact is still pending.”
Sports betting is a little more complex
Yes, sports betting is part of the compact.
Four Winds can offer sports betting, with some restrictions.
Four Winds, which already offers retail sportsbooks in Michigan, is likely to start one at its Indiana site once the legislature OKs the compact.
Its ability to offer mobile betting is more complicated.
Once sports betting became legal, casinos in Indiana were eager to partner with mobile operators – i.e. DraftKings and FanDuel – who needed the casinos to meet the state’s brick-and-mortar partnership requirements.
If permitted, Four Winds would be no different.
Four Winds can offer sports wagering and paid fantasy contests online and on mobile platforms, according to the compact. The catch? The wagers must be placed by people physically present at the casino.
In other words, what’s the point? Bettors can instead use the retail sportsbook.
Otherwise, the compact “does not address ‘off-reservation’ sports wagering or i-gaming,” explains an executive summary provided by Tait.
Instead, says the summary, any expansion of online sports wagering or casino games at Four Winds “would be at the discretion of the General Assembly and separate from the compact.”
Online casino gaming legalization will be a hot topic during this year’s legislative session – something all casinos will keep an eye on.