Indiana Lawmakers Ratifies Pokagon Gaming Compact

Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians

Lawmakers in Indiana have just ratified the state’s first tribal gaming compact with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.

In the United States, there are many Native American tribes operating casinos. In various states, tribal leaders have signed compact deals with lawmakers, setting up successful casino industries. Over the past few years, compacts have been changed up in several states to add more gaming options, even online play. In the state of Indiana, the gaming compact with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians was recently changed to provide the operator with a Class III gaming license. This change will allow the tribe to offer more gaming options and reap the benefits.

Agreement Reached

Back in January, the Pokagon and Governor Eric Holcomb reached an agreement to change the tribe. The deal allows the tribe to use its South Bend Four Winds Casino and turn it into a full-scale casino. In the past, the casino could only provide electronic bingo type games.

These games are similar to slots, but still not like the real thing. Now, the casino can provide traditional slot games, roulette, and blackjack. Lawmakers even allowed sports betting within the tribes operations.

An interesting side note to this agreement is that Indiana does not have federally recognized tribes in the state. The Pokagon Band is located in southwest Michigan but does count a portion of land in the northern area of Indiana as its homeland.

A Look at the Land

The Pokagon Band was able to receive federal recognition due to a Congressional act back in 1994. This act established the tribe as a sovereign reservation in the state of Michigan. Land was placed in a trust by the Interior Department for the tribe in the state of Indiana due to a historical connection.

In November 2016, a plot of land with 166 acres was approved for the tribe. This allowed the tribe to start planning for Class II gaming. The tribe now has the support of the state to move forward with Class III gaming. This simple change allows the tribes to provide commercial casino style gaming, but with a lower percentage paid to the state by way of revenue earnings.

Right now, the commercial casinos in Indiana pay 25% to the state based on gross gaming earnings. For the tribe, the compact allows them to pay only 10% from its slot earnings. The money goes to the state and federal government.

The new compact is quite long, with a 20 year time frame. The state and the tribe can choose to renew it every 10 years after the first 20.

Indiana Gaming Commission member Sarah Tait stated that the compact recognizes the sovereign rights of the state and the Pokagon Band. It demonstrates the value of the government-to-government relationship between the tribe and state, with a commitment from each party to complete the responsibilities to every citizen while working together to stay in compliance with applicable laws.

For the state, lawmakers agreed to stop new competition from starting in areas of the north portion of the state. This will limit any expansion of casinos located in Michigan City, East Chicago, Hammond, or Gary. All casinos except the Hard Rock in Gary, will not be allowed to relocate to a land-based venue and they must stay on the water. The Hard Rock deal had previously been approved so it can continue the transition.

For the Pokagon Band, the tribe already has three gaming venues in the state of Michigan. They plan to expand the facility in Indiana to offer a new hotel with 317 rooms. The property will also have a convention center, spa area, and more. It is unclear as to when this will happen or how long it will take.

Associate Writer: Geoff enjoys both live and online poker as well as casino games, and is particularly knowledgeable about the legal landscape of online gambling.