Controversy gathers around possible casino opportunity from land proposal
By Josh Altic
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana: The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs is considering a land proposal presented by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. If the land proposal is approved, it would make 164 acres of land part of a trust for a South Bend "tribal village." This would make this land part of a sovereign territory owned by the Indian Band, which already owns Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan, excepting it from state law limits on gambling and allowing a tribal casino to be part of the village.
Among those who oppose the approval of this proposed trust is State Representative Scott Pelath. He said, "This proposed federal action will expand gaming beyond the locations that our state has authorized. Instead, we will have gaming operations that are not subject to any consideration of what is best for Indiana." He also pointed out that a new South Bend casino outside of state jurisdiction and without limits on size or wagering taxes could be a source of fatal competition for other casinos in the State. He fears that another casino would merely move jobs from one place to another.
Matt Wesaw, Pokagon Band Chairman, issued a statement to the media in which he said, "The Pokagon Band's Indiana residents, particularly our elders and low-income citizens, face significant challenges in finding suitable housing and accessing our health, education, and family services programs." The Pokagon Band claims that a casino is not the priority of the land proposal and that it is possible that the land will only be used for homes and other businesses. Moreover, there are those who support the land proposal along with the possibility casino. "The economic impact would be a major and permanent boost to our local economy and a magnet for more future development," said Dave Thomas, in support of the construction of a casino.