Pokagon Band's smaller third casino will be built on M-51 South in Pokagon Township.

Four Winds Dowagiac coming

Published 9:26pm Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dowagiac will be getting its long-rumored casino on M-51 South with 100 new jobs in 2013.

Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, which owns Four Winds Casinos in New Buffalo and Hartford, pitched its project to Pokagon Township board Thursday night at its Community Center off Dailey Road.

By state compact, the tribe must reach a local agreement with Pokagon Township before proceeding. Pokagon next meets June 13.

The proposed casino on the southwest side just south of Edwards Street — half the size of Hartford’s — will include 200 slot machines, four table games, a 3,000-square-foot multi-purpose space and a 25-seat Timbers restaurant.

“We may have bingo a couple of nights,” Chairman Matt Wesaw said.

Four Winds Hartford features 500 slot machines, nine table games, a 100-seat restaurant and a 15-seat bar.

Four Winds Dowagiac maintains the same design as the other two, which opened in Berrien County in 2007 and at 68600 Red Arrow Highway in Van Buren County last summer.

“Analysis said we could be a bit bigger,” Wesaw said, “but we’re pretty conservative. We’re going to go smaller, and if we need to expand, we can. One hundred new jobs will be created to support the casino and there will also be a significant number of people working during construction. We will have less traffic than what you get when a football game lets out. A local casino is not going to be congested.”

The tribal police force has 18 officers.

Wightman and Associates engineer Matt Davis showed M-51 reconstructed with a dedicated left turn lane from Dowagiac, a deceleration right-turn lane from Niles and an acceleration lane leaving toward Dowagiac to let through vehicles flow.

Linda Preston — the Curves owner, not the township supervisor — asked as the mother of four teen-agers what a casino offers the community.

Besides 100 jobs, Wesaw said, “We give preference to local business partners to supply the facility. There is a five-member local revenue board defined by the compact agreement between the state and tribe which receives 2 percent of slot revenue.”

Members consist of representatives of Dowagiac, Pokagon Township, Cass County, the tribe and a fifth seat to be determined from other impacted units.

“I can’t tell you how much money we’re talking about until the casino is in operation,” Wesaw said. Patrons must be 21 to enter.

Pokagon Band provides services that include housing, education, family services, medical care and cultural preservation to 4,500 citizens.

Four Winds New Buffalo offers 135,000 square feet of gaming with approximately 3,000 slot machines, four restaurants, entertainment bars, retail venues and a 165-room hotel. After expansion this summer, New Buffalo will offer 250 additional hotel rooms; Silver Creek Event Center, a 1,500-seat, multi-use facility for concerts; and Hard Rock Cafe Four Winds, which will span two levels with seating for more than 275 people and a performance stage.

Tribal recognition was restored and signed into law by President Clinton in September 1994. The tribe’s 10-county service area includes four counties in southwestern Michigan and six in northwestern Indiana.

Tribal administrative offices are on Sink Road.

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