Hartford casino gives $1 million to local governments

Today was a million dollar day for governmental entities in and around Hartford, Michigan.

The new Four Winds Casino near Hartford handed over its first ever revenue sharing check.

“Governments don’t tax governments, so in exchange for the land in the trust, two percent of the revenue goes to the community,” said Matt Wesaw, Tribal Chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.

The tribe agreed to hand over two percent of slot machine revenue at the Four Winds Hartford. The first check turned out to be $1,043,891.50. That means the Hartford facility took in more than $50 million in slot revenue during its first 11 months of operation. That’s a total of $150,000 per day, despite the fact that the facility is much smaller than its Four Winds counterpart in New Buffalo, and only 43 miles away. “This is probably one of the smaller ones (casinos) in the lower peninsula you know, but by doing our due diligence this was an appropriate size, we figured based on a size that would be successful, as it turned out the market study in our thoughts were right on the money,” said Chairman Wesaw.

“We think between $90 and $100,000 will come to the city and there are a lot of projects that that money can be used for,” said Hartford City Manager Yemi Akinwale. “We plan on doing some road work with it, and we plan on applying for some grants in which some of that money can be used as a match.”

The single largest distribution, about $300,000, will go to the Hartford Public Schools, where the superintendent plans on going ‘furniture shopping.’ “The board has decided to use these funds to run some of the capital projects that we've been cutting in the past eight years as funding's gone down,” said Hartford Public Schools Superintendent Michael Hallgren. “Hopefully we can replace classroom furniture and do some other repair projects and that that we had to put on the back burner.”

The Dowagiac area promises to be the next casino community in Michiana. A casino building is being framed and plans call for the Four Winds Dowagiac to open next summer.

As for recently unveiled plans for a possible tribal casino in South Bend, Chairman Wesaw had this to say: “That’s not a priority for us, we’ve had no negotiations with any state or local unit of government with respect to a casino, you’d have to have a compact, you’d have to have a local agreement.”

Chairman Wesaw says the tribe’s top priority for South Bend is bringing housing and health services to northern Indiana tribal members.

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