Fred Dakota Founded Native American Casinos—In A U.P. Garage

Dakota’s days in the gaming industry weren’t over, however, with the appeals decision that closed The Pines. The Lac View Desert band hired him to run its casino, and eventually Dakota was reelected chairman of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, so he had a hand in gaming there. Along the way, Dakota’s pugnacious approach led to other controversies that at times passionately divided the tribe, and eventually he became the target of a successful criminal prosecution by the federal government. Those controversies go beyond the scope of this story, and more important, they do not diminish his role in setting the course of Native American gaming from his brother-in-law’s garage.

Looking back on those days of the garage casino, Brad says, “He didn’t ask permission, that was the single most important thing he might have done. He didn’t ask the BIA, he didn’t ask the state police, he didn’t ask the attorney general’s office. I don’t think Indian gaming would be what it is today if Fred Dakota had asked for permission.”

Fred Dakota still thinks occasionally of his friend Helene Walsh, the woman who suggested writing casino rules with the bingo rules. “She was a dear friend and she has since passed away, but I often think, What if she hadn’t said that that night,” he says.

Northern Michigan Casinos

The Island Resort & Casino

Harris, 800.682.6040,

Kewadin Casino

Christmas, 800-kewadin, • Hessel, 800-kewadin,
Manistique, 800-kewadin,

Kewadin Casino Hotel and Convention Center

Sault Sainte Marie, 800-kewadin,

Kewadin Shores Casino

St. Ignace, Saint Ignace, 800-kewadin,

Kings Club Casino

Brimley, 888-422-9645,

Lac Vieux Desert Resort Casino & Golf Course

Watersmeet, 800-583-3599,

Leelanau Sands Casino

Suttons Bay, 231-534-8100,

Little River Casino Resort

Manistee, 231-398-9114, (under construction)

Odawa Casino Resort

Petoskey, 877-442-6464,

Ojibwa Casino

Marquette, 906-249-4200,

Baraga, 906-353-2274,

Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort

Mount Pleasant, 888-7EAGLE7,

Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel

Williamsburg, 800-922-2WIN,

Jeff Smith is editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.

Article Comments

  • Della Jestila

    Wonderful Fred I remember it all and you are a most intelligent individual with foresight and commitment… Best to you