Pokagon Band faces hurdles for a gaming compact with Indiana

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 wants to open a casino in Indiana but could run into problems with Gov. Mike Pence (R).

The state is already home to riverboat casinos, land-based casinos and racinos. But Pence has stated that he does not support an "expansion of gaming" amid discussion of adding live table game dealers to existing facilities.

At the same time, Pence said he was open to "common sense reforms" to help existing businesses remain competitive. So negotiating a compact with a tribe -- something that has never happened before in Indiana -- will likely be challenging.

"This will be an extremely frustrating process for Gov. Pence," Ed Feigenbaum, the editor of Indiana Gaming Insight, told The Munster Times.

The paper noted that gaming revenues from three casinos in the part of the state near Michigan have fallen about 14 percent during the last five fiscal years. Overall, gaming revenue dropped 17 percent during the same time.

The tribe would face pressure to share revenues with Indiana, something that it already does for its three facilities in neighboring Michigan. The rates would be lower than those imposed on non-Indian facilities.

"The tribal casino in Michigan shares 6 percent of slot revenue with the state and 2 percent with the local community — and nothing from table game revenues," David Strow, the corporate communications director for Boyd Gaming Corp., a Nevada company that owns a riverboat casino, told the paper. "We pay a very high gaming tax revenue, as well as taxes on admissions and free play."

Additionally, state lawmakers are trying to insert themselves into the process. They are considering a bill that requires the Legislature to ratify any compact that has been negotiated by the governor, a practice common in other states but one that could lead to additional pressures.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs is moving forward with the environmental impact statement on the tribe's land-into-trust application and will hold a public hearing in South Bend on April 14. A final decision could be years away and the tribe cautions that it has not settled on a firm plan for the casino.

Get the Story:
Potential South Bend casino could be 'game-changer' (The Munster Times 3/27)

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)

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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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