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Construction       Facts     Earlier Opening     1st Revenue Sharing      Revenue sharing Distribution

Four Winds Hartford Michigan
Hartford Michigan

Four Winds Hartford - n
ow posting employment opportunities at

View daily building progress of the Hartford site

By Andrew Lersten
H-P South Haven Bureau






Destination:  Hartford



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 dont have any township employers close to that amount of employees. Theyre going to be the largest employer community-wide, and thats good stuff, Sefcik said.

When they come in, the way I view it, its 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. Theyre going to buy houses in the area, theyre going to go shopping and theyre going to go to school here. I think its 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 Arrow.







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 citys 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 laundry.

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 casinos peak periods, said Barry Antilla of the Road Commission.

The economic development benefits from the casino will be felt in several parts of Van Buren County, said county Economic Development Director Ed VanderVries.

Theyre 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 surrounding areas.

I also believe Lawrence will see an increase in activity, just because of the additional traffic. Paw Paw has more restaurants, so theyll also see more activity. Its 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 Arnts Surfari Joes hotel and water park just a few miles away at Watervliets I-94 Exit 41 will likely see a big surge in business. Thats because its the only hotel near the casino.

Nothings a given, but it seems though as its 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 Joes has 96 rooms and opened in April 2008. Its only about 3 miles from the casino site, Arnt said.

The Hartford city manager said the casino will help put Hartford on the map.

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! Its 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 casino.

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 Pokagons.

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 wont 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 its 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 Hartford area.

Casino facts

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 Hartford area.
 ► Local revenue sharing: Local and county government will share 2 percent of the
casinos 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.


Kalamazoo Gazette
Alex Nixon
April 15, 2011

Hartford casino to open earlier than expected,
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 Harkness

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 line.

"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 in coming weeks.

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 remained bare.

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.

   News media 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 detail.

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.


Kalamazoo Gazette
October 2, 2012
by Al Jones

Four Winds Hartford presents $1 million in slot machine revenues to Hartford area taxing agencies

1st Four Winds Hartford Revenue Sharing check presented - Oct 2012
Mike Hallgren, Yemi Akinwale, Chris Randall, Matthew Wesaw, John McLellan
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 Board.

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 organizations meeting Wednesday. It covers the time from the opening of Four Winds Hartford through July 31, 2012.

"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 year.

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 tribes 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 Bands other casinos.

Distribution of the revenue sharing check

Click here to download a printer friendly distribution document in .pdf file format.

Information for this web site was gathered from personal interviews, newspaper articles, scrapbooks, personal photo albums, and other documented materials - many available to the public at the Hartford Public Library or Van Buren County Historical Museum.  Please report any typographical errors, updated information, or incorrectly stated information to the webmaster for correction.  Reprinting for personal and instructional purposes is permitted, however, unauthorized commercial reprinting of this information or unauthorized linking to photos-pictures on this site is strictly prohibited without written permission from the webmaster. 

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A Pictorial History of Hartford, Michigan
Emma Thornburg Sefcik,
Competent Secretarial Service
Copyright 2000 - All rights reserved.

Revised: March 20, 2014