In Indiana, a Tuesday announcement from the Four Winds South Bend Casino communicated plans to add a 10-table poker room to its current gaming offering, with the dedicated space due to be completed by Labor Day.

The South Bend Tribune reports that Scott Rice, the general manager of the casino owned and operated by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians said that next week construction will commence on the poker room. The highly-anticipated addition is to be situated in the northwest corner of the facility, where slot machines are currently housed, and reportedly offer $1 to $2 No-Limit Texas Hold ‘em, $2 to $5 No Limit Hold ’em, $3 to $6 Limit Hold ’em and $1 to $3 Pot Limit Omaha.

Rice said that customer feedback was the catalyst for the addition, the casino having received specific requests for poker in advance of its January 16, 2018 opening. “We’ve always looked for different amenities that we can offer our guests,” said Rice. “Our guests have always asked for poker.”

In general, card games such as poker can only be offered via a Class III gaming compact. The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians does not possess such an agreement with Indiana. Class II gaming encompasses bingo and games associated with it, such as pull-tabs and non–banked card games, which are games played exclusively against other players rather than against the house. Class III gaming includes everything else and banked-card games.

The new poker room, however, is due in part to a January 23, 2018 legal opinion (pdf) from Michael Hoenig, the general counsel of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), which regulates and supports tribal gaming via the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), where in response to a request from Charles LaBoy, Executive Director for Pokagon Band Gaming Commission, the NIGC’s top attorney stated that Gamblit Poker LIVE! V1.0 qualifies as a Class II game under the IGRA when played on Indian lands in Michigan.

According to the legal opinion, the game qualifies as a “variation of poker that is not a banked card game or an electronic facsimile of poker.” Subsequently, the Michigan opinion was revised to “address the play of the game on Indian lands in both states.” And because in Indiana poker is already legal, the South Bend facility can offer it.

Don’t look for the casino to add other live table games such as the ones mentioned earlier, as house-banked games are not authorized at Class II casinos under the IGRA.

“The difference with poker, is you’re playing against other players,” Rice said, “not against the house.”

WNDU reports that Chief Operating Officer for Four Winds Casino, Frank Freedman, echoed Rice’s statement regarding guests asking for poker. “Guests have absolutely been asking for poker since we first announced our opening,” said Freedman. “Now that we’re established, we are eager to begin construction on what will be a really exciting, well-rounded poker room. For fans of the game, it will offer something for everyone.”

What is Indiana’s first Native American owned and operated casino is located at 3300 Prairie Road in South Bend and joins Four Winds locations in Michigan including Hartford, New Buffalo and Dowagiac. Other than the South Bend casino, the tribe’s three Michigan venues all operate under Class III licenses.

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