Casino News

Tax Exempt Status of Indiana’s Tribal-Owned Casino Adds Fuel to the Fire

The first tribal-owned casino in Indiana and more precisely the Four Winds Casino in South Bend may turn out to be the Apple of Discord among the gambling operators, as the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, known to be the owners of the upcoming casino, does not need to pay state taxes for operation. This privilege vexed the other casino operators in the area, who explained that this will secure better competitive advantages for the tribal-owned casino due to the lower operational costs.

The Pokagon nation operates 4 other casino facilities in New Buffalo, Hartford and Dowagiac, Michigan. In 2007 the tribal nation opened Four Winds Casino Resort in Michigan, rivaling Blue Chip Casino Hotel Spa in Indiana. Pressured by the big competition, Blue Chip casino needed to cut staff costs, which resulted in 165 employees, who lost their jobs. The casino’s revenue plummeted significantly, losing $58 million.

Consequences of the Eventual Casino Opening

The upcoming tribal-owned casino slated to open in South Bend in January 2018, places a great number of casino facilities under threat. The tribal nations’ tax immunity is provided by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988. In a nutshell, the Act allows the tribal nations to open casino facilities in designated areas, without state approval or taxation in case they offer only Class II games (bingo-based games of chance). Since then, the gambling industry in America is shaking as all the other casino operators pay their taxes to the state dutifully and honestly, but their businesses suffer from that.

The Executive Director of Casino Association of Indiana Matt Bell admitted that the tribal nation is to benefit from lower operational costs, giving the operators a chance to invest more money in attracting players. According to a survey conducted by Mr. Bell’s association, the opening of the tribal-owned casino in South Bend is to have a negative effect on the state’s tax income, projecting a drop of $355 million. What is more is that casino operators are expected to cut the number of their employees aiming to shrink their expenses.

Sara Gonso Tait, a member of the Indiana Gaming Commission commented that the upcoming tribal casino will most probably not offer table games, as the tribal nation needs to ask the state for permission to offer Class III games. So far, the Pokagon band did not express willingness to offer Class III games. Hence, this seems to be the only advantage of the other casino operators in the area, hoping that they will not lose their regular customers.

A Brief Look at South Bend Casino

At the end of August, Casino Reports provided the readers with a quick look from the insight of the casino under construction. The South Bend casino is scheduled to open by the end of January next year. The gaming floor is to occupy 55,000 square feet of space, featuring 1,800 slot machines. The Four Winds Casino is to offer also non-gambling activities, as it will include also restaurants, three bars, a coffee shop and shopping area. It was shared that the casino is to employ 1,200 people, besides the employees needed for the construction work.