Residents weigh in on proposed Pokagon casino

Dozens of residents came out for the first public hearing about a proposed casino and tribal village in South Bend.

In August, the Pokagon band of Potawatomi Indians filed paperwork to be recognized through a "trust" status with the federal government that would grant the tribe more authority over land on the far south side of South Bend.

They own 164 acres southwest of the U.S. 31 and U.S. 20 interchange, bound by S.R. 23 and Locust Road.

The Pokagon band wants to use that land for housing, healthcare and possibly a casino.

During a public hearing at South Bend's Century Center Thursday night, several residents spoke out about whether they should take a gamble on developing land in the city.

While the proposal includes housing for families, a tribal government facility and a healthcare clinic, much of the discussion at the hearing was centered around the possible gaming facility.

"I don't believe it's a good place," said South Bend resident Joan Motts. "And, I live on Ireland Road and the traffic on Locust, 23 and Ireland Road would be a destruction."

Motts says she's not opposed to the tribal village, which would provide some of the 500 local Pokagon citizens an affordable place to live.

"I don't care where people live," she said. "And, I think they're starting to move in on Locust Road anyhow. I don't care. It's the casino that I'm objecting to."

But, those in favor of the proposal say the economic benefits outweigh the negatives.

They think a casino coming to the community could help South Bend hit the jobs jackpot.

"We're talking hundreds of construction jobs and thousands of operational jobs once operations commence," said St. Joseph County Commissioner David Thomas. "And, not just any jobs. These are good pay, local union jobs."

While paperwork filed with the federal government indicates some of the land could be used for a casino, a spokesman for the project says it's not a priority for the Pokagon band because of the proximity of its three Four Winds casinos in nearby southwest Michigan.

David Gutierrez says they're not committing to any set type of business at this point and are more concerned with housing and healthcare.

But, the potential business use for the land has to be included in the paperwork in case, down the road, they want to venture into another casino, hotel, or completely different business.

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