Pokagon Band outlines $480M investment in Indiana casino plan

This image shows Alternative A for the land-into-trust site in South Bend, Indiana. No plans have been approved as of yet. Image from Pokagon EIS

The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians plans to spend $480 million on a casino, hotel, retail and other developments in Indiana but local opposition is forming.

The broad outlines of the project in the city of South Bend were shared in an draft environmental impact statement released by the Bureau of Indian Affairs yesterday. The tribe submitted a land-into-trust application to use about 166 acres for a village with housing, a health clinic and other services for members who live in the area.

"The Pokagon Band is seeking trust land to create a tribal village with the necessary infrastructure and services to support its citizens, including affordable housing, government and administrative offices, a community center, and health services,” a press release quoted by The South Bend Tribune stated.

But it's the gaming aspect that's drawing controversy. A group called Citizens for a Better Michiana claims the project would bring crime, addiction and other social ills to the area.

“The facts are clear: by inviting a casino into our backyard, we invite an endless list of long-term problems," spokesperson Jake Teshka told the paper.

Official response, however, has not been one of opposition. Mayor Pete Buttigieg said he's open to the discussions, which could lead to a revenue-sharing deal for the city.

“Anything that has the promise to create more jobs for the people of South Bend we have to take seriously.” Buttigieg told the paper.

The Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan. Photo from Facebook

The tribe gained federal recognition through an act of Congress in 1994. In addition to including six counties in Indiana in the tribe's service area, the law requires the BIA to place land in trust for the tribe's reservation -- there appear to be no temporal or geographical limits on the acquisitions.

Generally, land placed in trust after 1988 can't be used for gaming. But an exception in Section 20 of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act applies to tribes that were restored to federal recognition.

The Pokagons currently operate three casinos in Michigan. To open one in Indiana, the tribe would need to negotiate a Class III gaming compact.

Riverboat casinos, land casinos and racinos are legal in Indiana so the tribe would be entitled to the same types of gaming under IGRA.

Get the Story:
Plans for South Bend casino move forward (The South Bend Tribune 3/13)
South Bend group opposes plans for tribal casino (WNDU 3/13)
Controversy builds as plans move forward for casino in South Bend (Fox 28 3/12)
First step made towards building casino in South Bend (WSBT 3/12)
South Bend Residents Oppose Tribal Casino Project (Casino News Daily 3/13)
South Bend indian casino/ tribal village proposal studied (WNDU 3/12)

Federal Register Notices:
Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians Fee-to-Trust Transfer for Tribal Village and Casino, City of South Bend, St. Joseph County, Indiana (March 12, 2015)
Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Pokagon Band Tribal Village Fee-to-Trust Acquisition and Casino Project in the City of South Bend, St. Joseph County, IN (August 24, 2012)

Related Stories
Pokagon Band includes casino in land-into-trust plan in Indiana (3/12)
BIA still working on potential Pokagon Band casino in Indiana (02/18)

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