An amenities arms race appears to be underway in northern Indiana's casino industry.
On Wednesday, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians unveiled plans to expand its Four Winds Casino in South Bend by constructing a 23-story hotel tower with 317 rooms, including 83 suites.
The tower also will feature a spa, convention center, meeting space, ballroom, lounge, bar and grill, an outdoor rooftop swimming pool and terraces with views of adjacent greenery, according to the tribe.
"We've been very pleased with the response from the community and the performance of Four Winds South Bend since it opened in January 2018," said Matthew Wesaw, tribal council chairman.
"The expansion will bring to life a variety of exciting features and amenities we envisioned during our original planning process."
Wesaw said he expects the expansion, which will take two years to build, will employ 400 temporary construction workers and create approximately 100 permanent new jobs.
Frank Freedman, chief operating officer of Four Winds Casino, said he believes the enhancements will make the South Bend property "unrivaled in the state of Indiana."
"From the design, use of materials and finish work, Four Winds South Bend will offer a premium resort-style feel and amenities you'll find at top resorts in the country," Freedman said.
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Indiana's only tribal casino currently features about 1,400 slot machine-style games, four restaurants, a players lounge, coffee shop, three bars, a gift shop and 4,500 parking spaces, including an enclosed parking garage.
Last month, the tribe requested Gov. Eric Holcomb begin negotiations toward a gaming compact with the state that could open the door to table games and sports wagering in South Bend — putting the casino in direct competition with the five state-licensed casinos in Northwest Indiana.
At least one of those Region casinos, which currently features two gaming facilities, should be more than ready to hold its own by the time the South Bend expansion is complete.
Spectacle Entertainment has received state approval to consolidate and relocate its Majestic Star casinos from Lake Michigan to a land-based site adjacent to the Borman Expressway at Burr Street in Gary.
The rebranded Hard Rock Casino Gary, which will include a Hard Rock Cafe and Hard Rock Live music performance venue, is expected to open by Dec. 31, 2020. A 10-story hotel tower is planned to follow two or three years later.
Likewise, East Chicago's Ameristar Casino last year completed a top-to-bottom renovation of its four-level gaming boat, and the Hammond Horseshoe Casino last week reopened The Venue after closing the performance space in June to replace all the seats as part of a "seven-figure" enhancement project.
Blue Chip Michigan City, the commercial casino closest to South Bend, in 2008 opened a $130 million, 22-story Spa Blu tower, with 272 rooms and 30 suites, many with views of Lake Michigan, along with a 10,000-square foot spa.