Planning for a Four Winds Casino in South Bend took a step forward with the July 11 publication of a final Environmental Impact Statement.
The EIS, issued by the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs, details the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians' preferred plan for a tribal village and Four Winds Casino Resort. The EIS also includes an alternative site in Elkhart, another alternative without a casino, and the requisite "no action" alternative.
The Pokagon Band began the process of developing the South Bend land in May 2012. It completed a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the casino project in March 2015, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs held a public hearing a month later.
The preferred alternative includes a 423,000 square foot casino with 216,000 square feet of gaming space; an 18-story, 500-room hotel; and parking for as many as 4,000 cars. The tribal village would include a variety of housing and community facilities.
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The preferred site covers about 166 acres at U.S. 31 and Prairie Avenue in South Bend.
The EIS projects 4.2 million visitors annually, or 11,375 per day.
Publication of a final EIS begins a "wait period" of at least 30 days, followed by issuance of a Record of Decision by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The ROD will include the agency's decision on the project and on the necessary transfer of property from fee to trust ownership. The ROD also will include a discussion of necessary environmental mitigation and monitoring.
The title to the land would be held in trust by the federal government for the benefit of the tribe. It is the same process the Pokagon Band used for its three Four Winds casinos in southwest Michigan.
If the ROD is favorable, the tribe would then negotiate a compact with the governor that would detail its rights and responsibilities, including any revenue sharing. It would not be subject to the same taxes as private casinos.
If built as described in the EIS, the casino would be the state's largest.
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