Four Winds Dowagiac approved, 100 jobs expected

The Pokagon Township board unanimously approved a resolution to allow Four Winds to build a new casino south of Dowagiac during its meeting Wednesday evening.

The casino will be the smallest of the Four Winds properties. Its New Buffalo location has 3,000 slots, Hartford has 500 and Dowagiac will only have 200.

"This is what we refer to as a locals casino, people coming from Chicago just to gamble, they're going to stop in new buffalo first," said Chairman Matt Wesaw of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.

Several residents raised concerns about traffic and property values during the meeting. Four Winds representatives said studies showed it would not significantly increase traffic. Township Supervisor Linda Preston told residents she believed the casino will not have a negative impact on property values and could potentially raise it, but some were unconvinced.

"To me a gambling casino is derogatory to our community. We’re going to have more problems around here than we've got," said Cheryl Callahan, who lives less than a mile from the new casino site.

Callahan and her husband, Roger, said they planned to move following Wednesday's vote. They also expressed disappointment about the 100 jobs the casino is expected to create.

"They're going to bring in 100 jobs, I mean what's 100 jobs? They can go work at McDonald's and the other fast food restaurants that employ 100 people. Who’s it going to benefit?" questioned Callahan.

Wesaw countered their argument and said the casino will positively impact the tribe and the local economy.

"Everybody just needs to recognize that a good number of our people live here. This is home, so this is going to be a plus for community. When you're adding 100 jobs that's important, especially in this economy," said Wesaw. "It's all about community. Many of our people live here. We’re not going to do something poor. "

Dowagiac is the final site where the tribe can build a casino. In October 2008, tribal leaders and the state of Michigan amended its compact, which allows gaming, to last until 2028.

The tribe agreed to be limited to three casinos in the state. It also pays six percent of net revenue to the state and two percent to local governments.

Four Winds expects to begin construction in July and be ready to open the doors by next summer.

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