New gaming options at South Bend tribal casino OK'd by Indiana lawmakers


The Four Winds tribal casino in South Bend is one step closer to becoming a full-fledged competitor to the four state-regulated casinos in Northwest Indiana after the General Assembly gave final approval to House Enrolled Act 1055.

The measure codifies the Tribal-State Gaming Compact inked in January by Gov. Eric Holcomb and Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Chairman Matthew Wesaw that, once in effect, will allow standard slot machines, table games and sports wagering at the South Bend casino.

That could come later this year once the compact is reviewed and approved by the U.S. Interior Secretary and published in the Federal Register.

Under the compact, Four Winds could offer any gambling game permitted at state-regulated casinos, through mobile sports wagering, and any other electronic gaming eventually permitted in Indiana, would be limited to the 166 acres of tribal property in South Bend.

Currently, gambling games at the 175,000-square-foot casino that opened Jan. 16, 2018, are limited to bingo, pull-tabs and poker. While most of Four Winds' 1,800 gaming machines appear identical to commercial casino slot machines, the payouts actually are determined by electronic bingo games running, often unseen, behind displays featuring slot-style reels.

Federal law prohibits the state from taxing the tribal casino similar to a commercial casino, which in Indiana can range from 15% to 40% of "win," or casino revenue after paying successful bettors.

However, the tribe has agreed in the compact to pay 8% of its slot machine win to Indiana, compared to 6% in Michigan, in exchange for an exclusivity agreement that, in essence, freezes state gaming law within 50 miles of the Four Winds Casino, including in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.

As a result, the Majestic Star move to the Hard Rock Casino in Gary can be completed. But no other Region casinos would be allowed to leave their dockside footprint and no casinos elsewhere in the state could relocate to northern Indiana.

Northwest Indiana casinos also could have no more gambling games in the future than their previous maximum number of slot machines and table game seats. The compact sets a limit of 3,403 gaming positions at Four Winds — equal to the maximum number of positions allowed at the spacious Horseshoe Casino in Hammond.

Similar to state-regulated casinos, the Pokagons also agreed to withhold jackpot winnings from individuals delinquent in their child support payments, not make campaign donations to candidates for state or local office and refrain from marketing to participants in Indiana's voluntary exclusion program.