BIA to hear from public on Pokagon Band casino plan in 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 Bureau of Indian Affairs is headed to Indiana tomorrow for a public hearing on a casino being proposed by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.

The tribe submitted a a land-into-trust application for 166 acres in South Bend. Plans for the $480 million development include a casino, hotel, clinic and governmental offices to serve members who live in the area.

The BIA is preparing an environmental impact statement and will be soliciting the public's views tomorrow. The hearing takes place at 6pm at the Century Center in South Bend.

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

Written comments can also be submitted to the BIA. If the agency approves the application, the tribe will be the first with a recognized land base in Indiana.

The tribe already operates three casinos in neighboring Michigan. An Indian gaming facility would be a first in Indiana.

Local officials appear receptive to the idea. The city council in South Bend could vote tonight on a resolution of support.

A group called the Michiana Pokagon Alliance is supporting the tribe's efforts as well. The board consists of business and community leaders in South Bend.

A different group called Citizens for a Better Michiana is opposing the casino but has remained secretive. Jake Teshka, a former local Republican official, is the only person who has publicly identified himself a member.

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 allows casino for tribes that were restored to federal recognition.

Get the Story:
Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to hold meeting Tuesday on proposed South Bend casino (Fox 23 News 4/13)
Pokagons growing business presence (The South Bend Tribune 4/11)

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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City weighs resolution to support Pokagon Band casino in Indiana (4/9)
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Indiana lawmakers seek role in Pokagon Band gaming compact (3/27)
BIA to host public meeting for Pokagon Band casino in Indiana (3/24)
Pokagon Band set for first public hearing on Indiana casino bid (3/18)
Pokagon Band outlines $480M investment in Indiana casino plan (3/13)
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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