A compact between the State of Indiana and the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi is creeping toward its needed legislative approval.
Legislators have in recent weeks voted multiple times in favor of the deal. The agreement will expand Four Winds South Bend’s offerings while also limiting casino competition in 16 surrounding counties.
The two sides have yet to reach the finish line, however.
Pokagon-Indiana compact passes Senate, heads to House
The legislation passed Indiana’s Senate with a 36-11 vote in early February before unanimously passing the House’s Public Policy Committee on Monday.
It since wound its way to the House’s Ways and Means Committee, where details of the bill’s contents and its next steps were heard Wednesday.
Rep. Timothy Brown, who is sponsoring the legislation in the House and also chairs Ways and Means, said the following,
“It will be placed into a House bill in the Senate because it does raise revenue. And we’ve identified a couple bills the Senate can put this into, and then we’ll be voting on it at a later date.”
The compact will allow Four Winds in South Bend to expand to Class III gaming. If finalized, the casino will add live table games, slot machines, and sports betting.
The casino can currently only offer bingo-style gaming machines and a poker room, where players play against each other and not the house.
Gov. Eric Holcomb and Band leaders already signed the legislation. In addition to games like blackjack, roulette, baccarat, and craps, the compact will provide a financial boon to the state.
A net win for Indiana, says IGC director
The Band has agreed as part of the compact to pay the state 8% of slot machine winnings and also continue its existing 2% payments to South Bend.
The state will set $1 million aside in a workforce training and education fund for the Band.
The compact, reached after an 18-month negotiating period elongated by COVID-19, is “very fair to both sides,” said Pokagon Band Tribal Council Chairman Matthew Wesaw.
“This compact will be very helpful to the Pokagon Band in the fact it will continue to allow us to provide a better quality of life for our citizens to help us break that cycle of dependency,” he remarked.
Indiana Gaming Commission Executive Director Sara Tait testified Wednesday that financial analysis found a “net win” to the state.
The bill’s fiscal notes describe the state’s expected annual take as between $8.6 million and $15.8 million.
That net win comes even when calculating a potential impact to existing facilities, noted Tait, because “frankly the vast majority of impact (from Four Winds) to state facilities has already occurred.”
Buffer zone minimizes competition risk for Four Winds South Bend
A vital part of the compact is a 50-mile, 16-county competitive exclusivity zone.
That agreement means the state would face notable financial consequences for approving any new gambling site, expansion, or relocation to the northern Indiana zone surrounding Four Winds.
“For that exclusivity zone, the state agreed not to offer a new competitive facility, which is defined a facility with 15 or more machines,” Tait told members of the Ways and Means committee.
“Should the legislature want to authorize a competitive facility in the future, you have the ability to do so. That is absolutely 100% within your rights; however, the revenue sharing would then cease.”
It will be nearly impossible for a competitor to gain state approval for work in the exclusivity zone.
However, the compact will not impact ongoing projects.
Gary’s Hard Rock casino to open doors in mid-May
That caveat means no last-minute complications or contentions with the new, land-based Hard Rock Casino in Gary, slated to open May 14.
The project, initially expected to open New Year’s Eve, has had its fair share of complications. However, it will ultimately bring an impressive 200,000-square-foot building featuring more than 1,600 slot machines and 80 table games to Chicago-area bettors.
A 2,000-seat entertainment space will also debut; restaurants may follow.
Getting the casino this close to the finish line included numerous hurdles, encompassing a $530,000 fine, more than $25,000 in theft, an executive money laundering scheme, and more.
But here it is – less than two months away from an opening.
And it’s not Spectacle Entertainment’s only recent news.
Well outside the 16-county area is the company’s sister Rocksino project in Terre Haute, expected to open in 2022.
It was revealed at this month’s IGC meeting that the $175 million project will break ground in April.