INDIANAPOLIS | A top Indiana House Democrat is urging federal officials to reject a land proposal that could lead to an Indian casino opening in South Bend.
The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, which owns Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich., is seeking permission to put 164 acres of land in trust for a South Bend "tribal village," featuring a casino. If approved, the land would be part of the band's sovereign territory and exempt from state law, including limits on gaming sites.
State Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, believes the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs should reject the plan and prevent any tribal casinos from opening in Indiana.
"Our region's gaming market ... is largely saturated," Pelath said. "Therefore, it is natural for anyone to ask what overarching societal good is served by taking jobs from one area and bureaucratically transferring them to another."
Revenue and attendance at Michigan City's Blue Chip Casino dropped significantly when the 50 percent-larger Four Winds opened just 10 miles away in 2007. A South Bend casino, with no limits on size and no wagering taxes, could kill Blue Chip for good.
Pelath, the assistant House Democratic leader, said that would not only cost jobs, but the state would lose needed tax dollars and have less control over the gaming industry.
"This proposed federal action will expand gaming beyond the locations that our state has authorized," Pelath said. "Instead, we will have gaming operations that are not subject to any consideration of what is best for Indiana."
A study by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency found Indiana's 13 state-licensed casinos pay approximately 38 percent of their revenue to the state and local governments. Michigan's tribal casinos pay only 3.6 percent.