Blackjack, Roulette And Other Class III Gaming Opens At South Bend’s Four Winds Casino
Blackjack, roulette and other Class III games opened for play Thursday at South Bend’s Four Winds Casino. That’s after Indiana and Pokagon Band officials signed a historic gaming compact earlier this year. The compact allows the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi to bring table games and more sophisticated slot machines to its South Bend casino. In exchange, the state gets 8 percent of the casino’s net win each year.
“When you play a Class III game, the outcome is you against the game. It’s one-on-one,” Four Winds Chief Operating Officer Frank Freedman said. “Class II gaming, you need more participants. You’re on a server and it’s basically a bingo algorithm that gets converted into the game math.”
Freedman said the gaming upgrade will help make the South Bend casino a tourism destination in the state.
“There’s a lot of –– I think –– value in being able to sit down and play a card game,” he said. “I think it continues to help legitimize the facility as a world-class facility because we have more games to offer for our guests.”
Tribal Council Chairman Matthew Wesaw said the compact is an important step for tribal sovereignty. It’s the first of its kind in state history, and took a year and a half to negotiate.
“There were many who did not believe we could negotiate a gaming compact with Indiana. I was not one of the nonbelievers,” Wesaw said. “I knew the right time would come –– along with the right people –– who would be in office and at the table.”
The compact also includes a $1 million education fund, which will allow Pokagon citizens to attend state-funded colleges or vocational schools for free. Wesaw said the fund is part of the tribe’s commitment to provide for the education and health of its citizens.
“We never want to hear one of our citizens say, ‘I would like to finish my education, but –– ’” he said. “We have worked very hard to eliminate that ‘but.’”
Wesaw’s remarks at the casino Thursday were his last as tribal chairman. He’ll step down as the Pokagon Band’s longest-serving chairperson later this month.
While 16 table games are now open for play, the conversion of the casino’s 1,400-plus slot machines to Class III is expected to take several months.
Freedman said the South Bend casino is also in the middle of an expansion. Forty thousand square feet of additional gaming space is expected to open in fall 2022, and a 23-story hotel tower –– complete with a spa, lounge, convention area and meeting spaces –– is expected to open in early 2023.
Gov. Eric Holcomb said the expansion and gaming upgrade will help the facility become an economic driver not just for the region, but for the state.
“When Jeffersonville does well, South Bend benefits. When South Bend or St. Joe or Elkhart County’s doing well, Vanderburgh County does well,” Holcomb said. “So this is a big win for the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi Indiana and for the state of Indiana.”
Four Winds Casino is a financial supporter of WVPE.
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