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New Indian casino influences gambling debate

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians hopes to build a casino in South Bend. It’s a new wrinkle in the gambling debate now taking place in the General Assembly.

It’s also a political challenge for Governor Mike Pence. He’s opposed to an expansion of gambling, but for state government to have a say in what goes on at an Indian casino, he must first enter into a compact that amounts to approval for the construction of that casino.

The Pokagon Band has proposed a village on 165 acres on the southwest side of South Bend that would include a casino.

Last week, the Bureau of Indian Affairs conducted a public hearing on it and federal approval could come in the 10 months or so.

The Pokagon Band already has three casinos in Michigan and legislative leaders are now trying to figure out how to help existing Indiana casinos battle the anticipated competition.

“I’m not sure we can stop, it to be honest with you,” said Senate GOP Leader David Long.

“It’s a real competitive force against our existing state operators, so we’re looking at it,” said House Speaker Brian Bosma. “It plays into the decision-making process on the gaming bill.”

Bosma says he was told there would be no casino built when the Pokagon Band received tribal recognition about a decade ago.

All of this contributes to the comment Senator Luke Kenley made Wednesday with regard to current efforts to make Indiana casinos more competitive with out-of-state casinos.

He said there can be no permanent solution.

The gambling landscape keeps shifting.