In Indiana, Four Winds South Bend casino rolled out Las Vegas-style gaming on August 5, 2021, after the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians finalized a Class III gaming compact with the state earlier in the year.
Previously, the casino was only able to offer electronic bingo-style games and no gaming tables. The upgrade from Class II to Class III gaming allows the federally recognized tribe to add house-banked table games such as blackjack, craps and roulette, as well as more sophisticated – random number generator (RNG) – slots to its casino in South Bend.
Tribal Council Chairman Matthew Wesaw, who is also Chief Executive Officer of the federally recognized tribe, along with National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) Chairman Ernest L. Stevens, Jr. and Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb were all on hand at the unveiling, which featured the immediate addition of 16 live table games. All of the casino’s existing 1,400-plus slot machines are being converted to Class III, with the process expected to take several months, according to the official press release.
“This is a historic day. The constant communication back and forth. We dotted every ‘i’ and crossed every ‘t.’ That is how we arrived where we are today. I have never been prouder as a member of one of those sovereignties,” Holcomb said. “The expansion and gaming upgrade will help the facility become an economic driver not just for the region, but for the state.”
Class III significance:
Also in attendance at the August 5 ribbon-cutting ceremony, Frank Freedman, Chief Operating Officer for Four Winds Casino said…
“You need table games, in my opinion to there is a lot of cross-over play, there is a lot of I think the value in being able to sit down and play a card game. It continues to help legitimize the facility as a world-class facility because we have more games to offer for our guests,” as reported by local news abc57.
“When you play a Class III game, the outcome is you against the game. It’s one-on-one,” the COO explained. “Class II gaming, you need more participants. You’re on a server and it’s basically a bingo algorithm that gets converted into game math.”
After negotiations for the historic agreement were concluded by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians in January, the compact was ratified by the Indiana Legislature through a separate bill (HB 1055 contains the text of the compact), which Gov. Holcomb signed into law on April 29, 2021.
The Midwestern U.S. state‘s first tribal gaming compact has an initial term of 20 years, followed by renewal options in 10-year increments, and requires revenues to be shared with the state. As part of the agreement, the tribe will contribute 8 percent of its slot machine win at its South Bend casino, vs 6 percent in Michigan, for a guarantee of regional exclusivity.
“Not only is Class III gaming in Indiana historic and an important milestone for the Pokagon Band and our Four Winds Casinos, but the expansion of Four Winds South Bend will create numerous economic benefits with the State of Indiana and the City of South Bend,” Chairman Wesaw said.
In addition to the state’s share of the profits, the compact also includes the establishment of a $1 million education fund that will enable Pokagon citizens to attend two-year and four-year state-funded colleges or vocation schools in Indiana free of charge.
According to the official press release, for NIGA Chairman Stevens, last week’s ceremony was more significant than when on January 16, 2018, the casino opened with a Class II license.
“I was here for the opening, but today is more special and historic. We were able to educate about our sovereignty to get to where we are today,” Stevens said. “We are able to create economies. We are able to create jobs through our gaming facilities. So, today is truly historic because everybody wins.”
In order to accommodate the expected increase in patronage from the transformation to Class III, an expansion is currently underway at the 216,000 square feet facility, which includes the addition of a 23-story hotel tower. The 317-room and 83-suite hotel will include a spa, convention area, a ballroom, meeting space, an outdoor roof-top pool, terraces, and a bar & grille, and a lounge. The tribe expects the construction to be completed by Q1 2023.
The casino floor, which currently includes more than 1,400 games, a 12-table poker room, four restaurants, a coffee shop and three bars, is also expanding. It will add 40,000 square feet to the existing 175,000 square feet gaming space to make room for more guest capacity and more games. The additional casino space is expected to be completed in fall 2022.
COO Freedman said “Four Winds Casinos have consistently been ranked among the best gaming destinations in the country” and they believe the gaming upgrades combined with the new hotel tower and other amenities, “will bring the guest experience at Four Winds South Bend to another level and deliver on the premium resort-style feel and amenities you’ll find at other top resorts including Four Winds New Buffalo.”
In addition to the South Bend, Indiana property, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians is responsible for three casinos in the state of Michigan, including Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo, which opened in 2007, followed by the 2011 opening of Four Winds Hartford, and Four Winds Dowagiac in 2013.