Dowagiac Daily News’ top 10 stories of 2013: New casino tops list

Published 5:11 pm Monday, December 30, 2013

Over the last several editions, the Dowagiac Daily News has recapped the top stories of 2013, which were chosen based on staff review of the most read, talked about and impactful stories of the last 12 months. 

The following is what the staff has chosen as Dowagiac’s most significant story of 2013. 

In 2012, rumors of a new casino opening in Dowagiac would have seemed preposterous.

However, on April 30, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi opened the Four Winds Dowagiac Casino, bringing a tribal gaming complex right outside their home. Located on M-51, the casino is modeled after their other Four Winds locations in New Buffalo and Hartford, featuring the same look and feel, both inside and out.

“Four Winds Dowagiac will uphold the brand established in New Buffalo and Hartford,” said Matt Harkness, the casino’s general manager. “The marketing initiatives we have on the other two properties continue here. It’s seamless in terms of amenities customers have come to expect.”

The 27,000 square-foot complex houses 300 slot machines, four card tables and a Timbers restaurant that can seat up to 30 patrons. More importantly, though, the opening of the casino generated more than 100 new jobs, more than 60 percent of which were filled by Pokagon citizens.

“Four Winds Dowagiac is a significant next step in the economic development of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians,” said Matt Wesaw, the chairman of the Pokagon Band at the time of the casino’s opening. “Not only is this our third location for our Four Winds casinos, but Dowagiac is home to our tribal village (on Dailey Road) and our government facilities (on Sink Road).”

Not only did the casino’s opening attract customers, but it also drew the interest of local leaders, including Dowagiac Mayor Donald D. Lyons, the Dowagiac City Council, Pokagon Township Supervisor Linda Preston, the Cass County Board of Commissioners, including Chairman Skip Dyes from Calvin Township, and Dr. Fred L. Mathews, chairman of the Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees.

Within three months of opening, the Four Winds Dowagiac generated more than $3 million in revenue. As per their agreement with the state, 2 percent of that revenue, totaling more than $183,000, was handed to representatives from the city, Pokagon Township and Cass County for distribution throughout the community. So far, Pokagon Township, Cass County, Dowagiac Union Schools, the Cass District Library, Lewis-Cass Intermediate School District, Southwestern Michigan College and the City of Dowagiac all have received funds through the casino’s income.

The opening of the Dowagiac casino was the watershed moment of a year of tremendous growth for the Pokagon band. In addition to the casino, the tribe has also completed a $6.5 million expansion of its tribal village, constructing 16 duplexes and 16 townhomes. They also built a new gas station and convenience store next door to the Four Winds, and opened a new Township playground, located on Peavine Street.