In Indiana, the Pokagon Band Of Potawatomi Indians used a press conference yesterday to formally announce that the Bureau Of Indian Affairs had granted its land-into-trust application for a 160-acre plot near the city of South Bend.

According to a report from the Associated Press news service, the Pokagon Band Of Potawatomi Indians already holds some 3,204 acres of land at three sites in south-western Michigan and the decision means that it has now become the first tribe to have had land in Indiana returned by the federal government.

John Warren, Chief for the Pokagon Band Of Potawatomi Indians, declared that he was so overcome with emotion during a Friday congratulatory telephone call from Lawrence Roberts, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Of Indian Affairs for the United States Department Of The Interior, that he had been unable to speak.

“I was so emotional I couldn’t get anything out of my mouth,” said Warren, adding that Roberts had hung up and called back because he thought there had been a bad connection. “I said it wasn’t the connection. I couldn’t get the words out.”

The land-into-trust decision means that the federally-recognized tribe can now begin work on a $400 million development that is set to include the state’s largest casino with as many as 3,000 slots alongside an 18-story and 500-room hotel featuring parking for up to 4,000 vehicles. Already the operator of three Four Winds-branded casinos near the small Michigan cities of Dowagiac, New Buffalo and Hartford, the Pokagon Band Of Potawatomi Indians revealed that its Indiana operation is set to feature a 216,000 sq ft gaming floor and could draw up to 4.2 million visitors a year.

Currently, the Hollywood Casino Lawrenceburg near Cincinnati, Ohio, is the largest casino in Indiana with a 175,500 sq ft gaming floor followed by the Chicago-area Horseshoe Casino Hammond with its 108,000 sq ft facility. The Associated Press reported that none of the other eleven gambling venues in the Midwestern state offer a casino floor larger than 87,000 sq ft.

The South Bend Tribune newspaper earlier reported that the new development also envisages the construction of 44 housing units and tribal government offices while the Pokagon Band Of Potawatomi Indians previously agreed to donate $5 million to local community projects and initiatives and collect hotel taxes on behalf of St Joseph County.

“This will be a game changer, particularly for the five northern casinos along Lake Michigan,” Ed Feigenbaum, editor for the Indiana Gaming Insight newsletter, told the Associated Press.

Feigenbaum explained that most casinos in Indiana are subject to a tax rate of around 35% while the tariff for the Pokagon Band Of Potawatomi Indians is expected to be considerably lower at around 3%, which would include a 2% duty for the city of South Bend. He declared that the tribe may also offer other amenities to draw patrons such as a gasoline service station that would not charge federal and state excise taxes.

“They have all kinds of advantages over state-licensed casinos,” Feigenbaum told the news service.

Matt Bell, President and Chief Executive Officer for the Casino Association Of Indiana, told the Associated Press that the tribal casino is moreover set to have a considerable impact on the amount of money the state receives from gambling.

“I think it’s fair to say that we believe the impact to the state will be in the neighborhood of hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five years,” Bell told the news service.

Bell detailed that Indiana had collected gambling taxes of $602.09 million during its 2016 fiscal year, which represented a drop of 2.5% from 2015’s tally of $617.927 million largely as a result of increased competition from properties in surrounding states such as Michigan and Ohio.