Indiana has deal with Pokagon Band not to add casinos in 16 northern counties

(Photo supplied/Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians)

Indiana’s pledging not to add any casinos in 16 northern Indiana counties, as part of a deal with the Native American-run casino in South Bend.

The Pokagon Band’s Four Winds Casino is adding table games. It doesn’t need state approval to do that, but federal law calls for it to pursue a compact with the state to agree on terms for the operation.

Gaming Commission executive director Sara Tait says the deal gives Indiana an eight-percent cut of the casino’s income, and South Bend a two-percent cut. In exchange, the state promises a 50-mile buffer zone with no new competing casinos.

The existing casinos in Hammond and Michigan City can still expand on their existing property, but would be barred from relocating inland, as Gary’s casino is. The legislature has already authorized the Gary move, so it would be unaffected by the compact.

Tait estimates the deal would bring Indiana 12-million dollars a year, but says about half of that is expected to be offset by decreased business at other casinos. The deal also calls for Indiana to set aside a million dollars of its share in a job training fund for Pokagon Band members.

The state could still authorize a new northern Indiana casino or a Hammond or Michigan City expansion, but that would void the revenue-sharing agreement and restart negotiations. Tait notes without an agreement, the tribe can turn to the federal government for approval, which would give the state the same amount it currently gets from Four Winds’ slot machine operation: nothing.

And Tait says the money is only part of the benefit to the state. The Pokagon Band would also agree to follow other state gambling regulations, such as banning chronic gamblers and not serving free drinks.

The Senate has already voted to ratify the agreement. The House could vote this week.

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