South Bend Common Council approves casino pact

South Bend city officials have agreed to support a Native American tribe's attempt to develop a tribal village and casino in the city in exchange for a share of the gambling profits.

The South Bend Common Council on Monday voted 8-0 in favor of the proposal that calls for the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians to make an annual payment to the city equal to 2 percent of gambling profits, and to donate $5 million to various community projects and initiatives.

The city also agreed to actively support the efforts of the tribe, based 25 north of South Bend in Dowagiac, Michigan, to develop a $400 million tribal village and casino and oppose any efforts to expand gambling in South Bend beyond what is already allowed under state law. The city also agreed not to encourage or support any other casino projects in the city.

"When the idea of tribal gaming in South Bend first became a possibility, I indicated the city could be supportive of it only if the benefits outweighed the cost, and this agreement is a way to make sure that's the case," Mayor Pete Buttigieg told the South Bend Tribune.

The vote Monday was unanimous despite some objections.

Jake Teshka, a spokesman for Citizens for a Better Michiana, which describes itself as a grassroots group opposing the casino, said casinos negatively impact property values, discourage nearby investment, hurt local businesses and contribute to crime and bankruptcy.

"A lot of what we heard here tonight is it's coming anyway, and we just want to get our cut," Teshka said. "That's the same thing as saying heroin dealers are all over the city . and we're never going to be able to stop it, so why don't we just take our cut from it."

The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs is reviewing an environmental study of the tribe's trust land application. Construction on the tribal village and Four Winds Casino cannot begin until the application is approved.

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