1st Revenue Sharing
Revenue sharing Distribution
By Andrew Lersten
H-P South Haven Bureau
Casino may boost Hartford and its neighbors
HARTFORD — The Four Winds Hartford
casino opening in four months is poised to dramatically change not only
Hartford but surrounding communities.
With 300 employees, the $40 million casino will be by far the largest
employer in the Hartford area. Hartford Public Schools now holds that
distinction with 167 employees.
Township Supervisor Ron Sefcik is
enthusiastic about the economic benefits the casino will bring.
“We don’t have any township employers close to that amount of employees.
They’re going to be the largest employer community-wide, and that’s good
stuff,” Sefcik said.
“When they come in, the way I view it, it’s really no different than a
large manufacturer putting up a new factory. They will bring in staff from
other locations to work in this facility. It does impact the area.
They’re going to buy houses in the area, they’re going to go shopping and
they’re going to go to school here. I think it’s a win-win situation.”
The water lines are being installed on the north side of Red Arrow, from
the city line west to the casino site. That work started last Monday,
Akinwale said. The sewer lines will be built along the south side of Red
Workers are installing city water lines in Hartford out to the new Four
Winds Hartford casino under construction
in Hartford Township west of the city.
Hartford will supply the casino with water and sewer services, and the
casino will be the city’s largest single utility customer, City Manager
Yemi Akinwale said. “Based on the baseline estimate of 25,000 gallons a
day, it would bring us about $90,000 in new revenues a year,” Akinwale
said. “The only major users we have right now are the car wash and the
The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians is
building the casino on 25 acres of tribal land on the north side of Red
Arrow Highway, about 2 miles west of the city in Hartford Township.
To accommodate traffic for the casino,
a portion of Red Arrow will be widened so a turn lane can be built, said
Larry Hummel, Van Buren County Road Commission engineer-manager.
An estimated 150 vehicles will enter and leave the casino property hourly
during the casino’s peak periods, said Barry Antilla of the Road
The economic development benefits from the casino will be felt in several
parts of Van Buren County, said county Economic Development Director Ed
“They’re going to be hiring 300 or so employees. A good number of those
will be Van Buren County residents who will then buy their products and buy
their services in the county,” VanderVries said. “We should see some
spin-off in the Red Arrow corridor, around Watervliet, Hartford and
“I also believe Lawrence will see an increase in activity, just because of
the additional traffic. Paw Paw has more restaurants, so they’ll also see
more activity. It’s one of those things that you see that can only happen
when you see an increase in traffic like that.”
In the short term, Joe Arnt’s Surfari Joe’s hotel and water park just a few
miles away at Watervliet’s I-94 Exit 41 will likely see a big surge in
business. That’s because it’s the only hotel near the casino.
“Nothing’s a given, but it seems though as it’s got to help,” Arnt said.
“There will definitely be some kind of shuttle (between the hotel and the
casino), whether we do it or they do it.”
Surfari Joe’s has 96 rooms and opened in April 2008. It’s only about 3
miles from the casino site, Arnt said.
The Hartford city manager said the casino will help put Hartford “on the
“I think if the Pokagons can decide to make that kind of investment in this
community it sends a positive message that, ‘hey, take a look at Hartford!’
It’s time for people to know where Hartford is on the map.”
The Watervliet area is likely to see increased activity, ranging from
additional traffic to additional business at gas stations and restaurants.
The Watervliet exit off I-94 was identified in Pokagon traffic studies as
the interstate access point for more than half the traffic coming to the
“We expect the casino to support a lot of ancillary businesses,” said
Pokagon Tribal Chairman Matt Wesaw.
Watervliet and Watervliet Township have been identified as areas of direct
casino impact by the entities that will help make up a local revenue
sharing board. The board will be created to divvy up the 2 percent of
casino slot machine revenue assigned to affected communities.
That formula was established in a compact between the state and the
The first four revenue sharing board members have been established. They
are Hartford, Hartford Township, Van Buren County and the tribe. The fifth
member has not yet been chosen.
Based on revenue from the Pokagons’ Four Winds Casino near New Buffalo, the
500 slot machines at the Hartford casino would generate an estimated $50
million annually. The revenue sharing board, in turn, would oversee the
allocation of an estimated $1 million per year.
The revenue will allow the member entities to recoup costs of additional
services required because of the casino and provide a payment in lieu of
taxes because the casino won’t pay local taxes.
The first revenue distribution to the board is scheduled for fall 2012.
Wesaw said tribal members will get the first opportunity to work at the
casino. About 10 to 12 percent of the employees at the Four Winds Casino
are tribal members, he said.
Some of those Pokagons working at the New Buffalo site may choose to switch
to the Hartford site if it’s a shorter drive for them, Wesaw said.
“If they want a job, they will get one,” Wesaw said.
Matt Martin is a Pokagon member recently hired as one of the casinos’ shift
managers. He said he plans to relocate his family from Indiana to the
Details of the Four Winds Hartford:
► Cost: $40 million.
► Location: 25 acres of tribal land north of Red Arrow Highway in
Hartford Township, about 2 miles west of Hartford.
► Opening date: Sometime in August.
► Amenities: 500 slot machines, nine table games, Timbers restaurant, bar.
► Jobs: 300, with preference for Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians
members. It will be the largest single employer in the
► Local revenue sharing: Local and county government will share 2 percent
casino’s slot machine revenue. Hartford, Hartford
Township, Van Buren County and the Pokagons have four of the permanent, voting
board seats. The fifth member has not yet been chosen.
April 15, 2011
Hartford casino to open
officials with Four Winds casino say
HARTFORD — A new casino in Hartford will
open at least a month earlier than initially expected.
While officials with the Four Winds Hartford casino haven't
set a specific day for the opening, it will be sometime in
August, Matt Wesaw, chairman of the Pokagon Band of
Potawatomi Indians, said Tuesday during a press conference
at the casino construction site in Van Buren County.
The Pokagon Band, owners of Four Winds casino in New
Buffalo, initially expected the 500-slot machine satellite
casino in Hartford to open by Oct. 1, Wesaw said.
Matt Wesaw and Matt
Four Winds Hartford, about one-sixth the
size of the 3,000-slot machine casino in New Buffalo, is
modeled after its larger sibling near the Michigan-Indiana
"We have a large population in this area and studies
indicated this would be a good place for another property,"
Wesaw said of Hartford, which is roughly halfway between
Kalamazoo and New Buffalo off Interstate 94.
The Four Winds Hartford casino under construction in
Hartford Township, west of
the City of Hartford on Red Arrow Highway, is expected to open
in about four months. The exterior shell of the
52,000-square-foot facility has been constructed.
The 4,400-member tribe has about 200
people living in the Hartford area, Wesaw said.
"This is a little more of a locals market," Matt
Harkness, general manager of Four Winds, said of the
Hartford site. "We have established …ourselves (in New
Buffalo) as a premier gaming resort. That same look and feel
will be up here."
The 52,000-square-foot casino is expected to employ about
300 workers, officials said.
Casino operators plan a job fair that may be held in about
six weeks, Harkness said. More information on potential jobs
will be posted online at fourwindscasino.com/employment in
In addition to 500 slots, the Hartford casino will offer
nine table games, a restaurant and a bar. As of Tuesday, the
exterior shell has been erected at the site, which is about
two miles west of the city of Hartford. The interior
The satellite casino's proximity to the Kalamazoo area may
help Four Winds better compete with more recent casino
developments in Southwest Michigan.
"There's a lot of people here who like this kind of
entertainment and it's not as far of a drive," Wesaw said.
and guests were given a look inside the empty shell of what
will be Four Winds Hartford casino today. The 500-slot
machine casino, a satellite to Four Winds' New Buffalo
casino, will open in August.
The Pokagon Band completed construction of its New Buffalo
casino in August 2007. In August 2009, the
Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi opened FireKeepers
Casino in Emmett Township, just east of Battle Creek. And in
February, the Gun Lake Band of Pottawatomi opened the Gun
Lake Casino in Wayland Township.
Both FireKeepers and Gun Lake are a roughly 30-minute drive
from Kalamazoo, as is Hartford.
Also Tuesday, Harkness said he expects to announce expansion
plans for Four Winds in New Buffalo around the time that the
Hartford casino opens. Harkness declined to go into further
FireKeepers in March announced its own expansion plans,
including adding a hotel and conference center. Four Winds
New Buffalo has a 165-room hotel.
The Pokagon Band also owns land in Dowagiac where it is
allowed to operate a casino. But Wesaw said the tribe is not
currently discussing opening a casino there.
October 2, 2012
by Al Jones
Four Winds Hartford presents $1 million
in slot machine revenues to Hartford area taxing
L-R Mike Hallgren, Yemi Akinwale, Chris Randall, Matthew Wesaw, John
Revenue Sharing Board Members
HARTFORD, MI – Two percent of the annual revenue
from electronic gaming at Four Winds Hartford Casino comes to … drum-roll
please … $1,043,891.
That is the amount the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians presented
Wednesday afternoon to the Pokagon-Hartford Area Local Revenue Sharing
Per its 1998 compact with the state of Michigan, the tribe is required
to make the annual distribution.
It was the first annual distribution to the Revenue Sharing Board that
the casino has made. A ceremonial check for the amount was presented by
the tribe to the LRSB during that organization’s meeting Wednesday. It
covers the time from the opening of Four Winds Hartford through July 31,
"It's just a great pleasure for the Pokagon Band to be able to share
the success of Four Winds Hartford with the local community," said Matthew
Wesaw, tribal chairman of the
Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. "As mentioned by many of the
representatives of the local governments, this money will be put to good
use, with the largest share going to the public schools. That will create
a benefit that will reach far into the future."
The five-member LRSB includes representatives from Hartford Township
(John McLellan, a Hartford Township trustee), the city of Hartford (Yemi
Akinwale, Hartford city manager), Van Buren County (Chris Randall,
chairperson of the Van Buren County Board of Commissioners), the Pokagon
Band (Matthew Wesaw), and a revolving membership currently held by a
Hartford Public Schools official (Mike Hallgren, superintendent of
Hartford Public Schools) who represents the other area governments.
At 68600 Red Arrow Highway in Hartford Township, the 52,000-square-foot
Four Winds Casino Hartford opened to the public on Aug. 30, 2011. It is a
satellite casino of Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo, a
130,000-square-foot gaming facility opened by the Pokagon Band in 2007.
The New Buffalo casino has 3,022 slot machines, a variety of table
games and its meeting and hotel facilities underwent major expansions this
The Hartford casino has about 530 slot machines, a 100-seat fast-food
and deli restaurant called Timbers, a gift shop where tribal goods are
sold and a 15-seat bar.
According to the tribe’s compact, it can operate three casinos but two
have to be smaller, satellite operations to the New Buffalo location. The
satellite locations are also allowed to have no more than 1,000 slot
machines (which includes all electronic games).
The Pokagon Band is busy building a third gaming facility, Four Winds
Dowagiac in Pokagon Township, south of Dowagiac. Construction started in
late summer and is to be completed by late summer of 2013.
The 26,000-square-foot gaming facility will have 200 slot machines,
four gaming tables, a 3,000-square-foot multi-use space and a Timbers
restaurant, built in the style of the Pokagon Band’s other casinos.
Distribution of the revenue sharing
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