Pokagon Band casino remains a concern for Indiana lawmakers

John Warren, at podium, serves as chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. Photo from Facebook

Lawmakers in Indiana are finalizing a bill to expand the state's gaming industry as the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians pursues its own casino.

Among other provisions, House Bill 1540 allows riverboat casinos to establish facilities on adjacent land and authorizes live dealers at racetracks. It also includes a section regarding a Class III gaming compact that the tribe has said will interfere with negotiations that have not yet begun.

The tribe is planning a casino, hotel and other development on a 166-acre site in South Bend, according to the environmental impact statement. The project, if approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, would be the largest gaming facility in the state, The Northwest Indiana Times reported.

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

“I’m not sure we can stop, it to be honest with you,” Sen. David Long (R), the leader of the Indiana Senate, told WISH of the tribe's proposal.

“It’s a real competitive force against our existing state operators, so we’re looking at it,” added Rep. Brian Bosma (R), the speaker in the Indiana House. “It plays into the decision-making process on the gaming bill.”

Bosma also said he was told that the tribe was not planning a casino in Indiana when it gained federal recognition through an act of Congress in 1994. But the law does not contain any gaming prohibitions or any restrictions on land acquisitions in Indiana or Michigan, where three casinos are already in operation.

Lawmakers met in a conference committee on Wednesday to continue work on House Bill 1540. A final version will require new votes in the House and the Senate before it can be sent to the Gov. Mike Pence (R), who has said he does not support an "expansion of gaming", for his review.

Get the Story:
New Indian casino influences gambling debate (WISH 4/23)
Lawmakers finalizing plan for land-based casinos (The Northwest Indiana Times 4/23)\

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 questions bill that affects Indiana casino project (4/22)
Indiana lawmakers not so welcoming to Pokagon Band casino bid (4/17)
BIA hears from public on Pokagon Band gaming plan in Indiana (4/15)
Pokagon Band gains city support for casino ahead of BIA hearing (4/14)

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