A rendering of Four Winds Dowagiac developed by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. Image via fb.com
Michigan’s largest tribal casino business is about to get bigger — with a new satellite casino opening in Dowagiac in northwest Cass County on April 30 with 300 slots, four table games and a small restaurant.
The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians' new Four Winds Dowagiac is located just a few miles south of downtown Dowagiac on M-51.
The Four Winds satellite casino in Hartford, which is just off I-94 and is about 20 miles north of Dowagiac, opened in 2011.
The Pokagon Band opened its main facility, the Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo, in 2007. It is the closest casino in Michigan to another state and draws many gamblers from Indiana and Illinois.
“Dowagiac is home to the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians Tribal Government, as well as many Pokagon citizens, which made it the natural location for our newest property,” said Matt Wesaw, chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. “We are thrilled to open this casino, which has created approximately 100 new jobs for Pokagon citizens and people living in nearby communities. The casino will also support the development of ancillary businesses in the area.”
Matt Harkness, general manager of Four Winds Casinos, said the “Four Winds Dowagiac is sized accordingly to meet the demand of the local market.”
The Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo is in the far southwest corner of Michigan, about one mile from I-94 and about two miles north of the Michigan and Indiana state line.
The closest competing casino, only 12 miles away in Michigan City, Ind., is the Blue Chip Casino Hotel/Spa. The Blue Chip, owned by Boyd Gaming Corp. of Las Vegas, is not a tribal casino.
Casinos' net slot takes
Four Winds' operation had a net take — the amount remaining after subtracting gamblers’ winnings — from its slot machines in 2012 of about $334 million, based on data compiled by the Michigan Gaming Control Board regarding the 2 percent local revenue-sharing payments each tribal casino makes to the local government. The actual revenue-sharing payment totaled $6,682,110.
The next largest tribal net take on slots last year was the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe’s Soaring Eagle Casino in Mount Pleasant, at an estimated $291,357,100, based on a local revenue-sharing payment of $5,827,142.
The FireKeepers Casino near Battle Creek had a net slot take estimated at $247,309,100, based on its 2 percent revenue-sharing payment of $4,946,182. It is owned by the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi.
The Gun Lake Casino in Wayland Township had a net slot take estimated at $163,878,150, based on its local revenue-sharing payment of $3,277,563.
Little River Casino near Manistee had a net slot take of $93,058,300, based on its local revenue-sharing payment of $1,861,166.
The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, which owns the five Kewadin Casinos in the Upper Peninsula, had a net slot take of $89,234,900, based on its local revenue-sharing payments that totaled $1,784,698.
Turtle Creek Casino, just northeast of Traverse City, had a net slot take of $86,809,800, based on its local revenue-sharing payment of $1,736,196.
All tribal casino local revenue-sharing payments for 2012 are estimated by the Michigan Gaming Control Board at $29,944,248, which indicates the tribes’ total net take on slots was $1,497,212,400.
The state estimates the total net take by the three Detroit casinos, which are not owned by tribes, is about the same as the tribes’ 20 casinos scattered around the state.
State revenue-sharing payments and sovereign governments
Although all 12 tribes in Michigan with casinos each paid 8 percent of their net slot take to the state of Michigan when their casinos opened, only half of them now do so.
The others stopped making their state revenue-sharing payments when other casinos opened, which the tribes claim broke the state’s promise that it would not allow other casinos to open in competition with them in those regions.
The Michigan Gaming Control Board monitors tribal casino payments to the state and local governments, but the MGCB website states that the 12 federally recognized Indian tribes in Michigan “are sovereign governments” and “the state generally does not have legal authority over tribal governments and tribal members when they are inside the tribe’s territory — those lands designated as the tribe’s reservation or trust lands. Instead, the state interacts with tribes on a government-to-government basis.”
The three tribal casinos making the largest 8-percent payments to the state of Michigan last year, based on their slot take, were Four Winds at slightly more than $21 million, FireKeepers at slightly over $15 million and Gun Lake at almost $13.4 million.