Betting on a winner

Published 7:09 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Members of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and Four Winds Casino staff speak to the press during a media event Tuesday at the casino’s new Hartford location. Photo by Katie Rohman


Four Winds Casino is betting that its second location on the Red Arrow Highway in Hartford, Mich. will hit the jackpot.

The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, owners of Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo, Mich., announced Tuesday that its opening date for the new Hartford location has been moved up from October to August because construction is ahead of schedule.

“It’s a good day to be a Pokagon,” Matt Wesaw, Pokagon Band chairman, said Tuesday morning during a media event at the site.

The Hartford casino is expected to boost development in the area. A community center will be opening in July; a cultural center will break ground next fall; and a new health care clinic is in the works. Also, 2 percent of slot revenue is given back to the community.

But the biggest immediate impact will be in employment. The casino will generate about 300 new jobs, including casino floor and back of house positions up through the supervisor level. A job fair for the general public will held in coming weeks.

“We have a large (Pokagon) population in this area,” Wesaw said. “This is home.”

According to Wesaw, studies determining an ideal site for a second casino identified Hartford because of its demographic and Pokagon population.

“There’s a lot of people here who like this form of entertainment,” Wesaw said. “It makes it a lot easier for our people to gain employment.”

The Hartford casino will essentially be a smaller version of the New Buffalo site.

Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo offers 135,000-square-feet of gaming and about 3,000 slot machines in addition to table games, four restaurants, entertainment bars, a hotel and retail.

Four Winds Hartford, at 52,000-square-feet, will be about one-sixth the size of the one in New Buffalo, and will feature 500 slot machines; nine table games, including blackjack and roulette; and a second location of the Timbers Fast Food and Deli, currently located at the New Buffalo casino.

The casino’s W Club, a player loyalty program, will also be available at Four Winds Hartford.

Matt Harkness, Four Winds general manager, explained Tuesday that the Hartford casino will appeal to a different demographic than its neighbor to the west.

“This will be more of a locals market,” he said. “I think this will serve this area very well.

“You might be in a casino, but you see the rich tradition and culture,” Harkness said.

An exact opening date in August has not been set.

Officials also confirmed talks are under way to possibly expand the New Buffalo casino.

Four Winds Hartford will be located at 68600 Red Arrow Highway, Hartford, approximately 2 1/2 miles west of the city of Hartford, between exits 41 and 46 on Interstate 94.

Visit Four Winds online at Job applicants can also apply on the website.