Pokagon Band: A $35 Million Economic Force
The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians contributed $35 million to the regional economy in 2012, in addition to its annual payments to the State of Michigan, per the Band’s compact, and ancillary benefits from its Four Winds Casinos and other businesses. The 4,500-member tribe services ten county areas: four in Southwestern Michigan and six in Northern Indiana.
Chairman Matt Wesaw said the Band “makes it a priority to support local vendors and hire locally” for its gaming and other ventures. Last year, the Band spent $25 million with 3,132 vendors nationwide. Of that, $15 million was spent with 1,332 vendors in Michigan, and $1.5 million was spent with 372 vendors in Indiana. The Pokagon Fund, which is supported by 0.75 percent of electronic gaming revenue from Four Winds New Buffalo, gave away $2.6 million in grants to various projects in the New Buffalo region. Additionally, through its casino locations, the Pokagon Band also made contributions of $5.6 million to the New Buffalo Local Revenue Sharing Board and $1 million to the Hartford Local Revenue Sharing Board. The local revenue sharing boards were set up through the Pokagon Band’s compact with the State of Michigan to provide funding to local municipalities in lieu of taxes.
“We felt it was important to make additional investments in the communities of Southwest Michigan and Northern Indiana through our Pokagon Fund and other direct donations to various charitable causes and events,” Wesaw said in a press release.
In-kind donations from the Band amounted to more than $365,000 in 2012. The same year, the tribe also sponsored the inaugural Four Winds Invitational, bringing a professional golf tournament and pumping tourism dollars into the area. Plus, the tournament enabled donations of $53,000 to Memorial Children’s Hospital and $10,000 to its Ronald McDonald Family Room.
The tribe currently runs two gaming facilities: Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo and Four Winds Hartford. Its third casino, Four Winds Dowagiac, will open in 2013. The operation is expected to create 100 new jobs in addition to many employment opportunities during construction. The Dowagiac location will offer 200 slot machines, four table games, a 3,000-square-foot multi-use space, and a Timbers restaurant.