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New Buffalo Casino One Step Closer to Reality30 March 2005
On Thursday March 24th, a federal district court dismissed a four year old case that has prevented the Pokagon Band of Pottowatami Indians from proceeding with the construction of a casino in New Buffalo, Michigan. The lawsuit brought on by the Taxpayers of Michigan Against Casinos ("TOMAC") had enjoined the Bureau of Indian Affairs from placing land into trust for the Four Winds Casino Resort project.
The land in question is a 675-acre parcel located just off I-94 near the Indiana border. The casino will be approximately 90 minutes from Chicago, and is expected to draw patrons from West Michigan, Indiana and the Chicago markets.
Now that the injunction has been lifted, the Bureau of Indian Affairs can proceed with taking the land into trust, and construction of the casino project can commence. "We cannot wait to begin construction," Tribal Chairman John Miller said. "The building process alone will support more than 1000 high paying construction jobs. The community will see a very positive impact almost immediately. We have many people to thank for sticking with us and believing in this project. But on behalf of our tribal members, I would especially like to thank the good people of New Buffalo and New Buffalo Township. Their never wavering support made our case unbeatable. We look forward to being community partners with them."
In connection with the project, the Pokagon Band has been working with Lakes Entertainment, a Minnesota-based company. Lyle Berman, chairman and CEO of Lakes stated, "We are very pleased with the Judge's decision and extremely happy for the Pokagon Band. This is a lawsuit that has taken four years to resolve and has taken four years away from the Pokagon Band's efforts to become self-sufficient."
"We look forward to begin construction of the Four Winds Casino as soon as the trust process is completed," commented Tim Cope, president and CFO of Lakes. "The first phase of development is planned to include approximately 3,000 slot machines and 100 table games, as well as numerous restaurants, enclosed parking and several other casino resort amenities. The Four Winds Casino will be the only land-based casino in the northern Indiana/western Michigan market. We currently anticipate opening the casino approximately ten to twelve months after construction begins."
Lakes Entertainment, Inc. currently has development and management agreements with six separate tribes for new casino operations in Michigan, California, Texas and Oklahoma, a total of nine separate casino sites. In addition, Lakes has announced plans to develop a company owned casino resort project in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Company also owns approximately 64 percent of WPT Enterprises, Inc. (Nasdaq "WPTE"), a separate, publicly held media and entertainment company principally engaged in the development, production and marketing of gaming themed televised programming including the World Poker Tour television series.
According to Lakes Entertainment's website, the Four Winds Casino Resort will have a northern woods lodge theme with 3,000 of the newest, most popular slots, over 100 table games and 144,000 square feet of casino space.
The casino will have six restaurants consisting of a specialty coffee bar, snack bar, 480-seat buffet, 24-hour grill, a specialty seafood house and white tablecloth steakhouse. Parking for guests will be provided by a 2,200-car garage and 1,200 surface spaces. The 70-car porte-cochere will shelter the valet guest from the elements. A Kids Quest hourly childcare center for children ages six weeks to twelve years old will also be featured, as well as an adult supervised arcade for older children.
According to Tom Shields, the spokesman for the tribe, economic studies predict that the casino will ultimately support 3,500 new jobs in the community with 2,000 new jobs created directly at the casino. The studies also predict payments of more than $20 million to the state and more than $4 million a year in direct payments to the governments and agencies in the region.
For the Pokagon Band, economic empowerment and progress for its 3,000 members, which has been long awaited, is now one step closer to reality.