, , , , , ,

Tribe Asks Federal Judge To Block Ho-Chunk Casino Expansion

Stockbridge-Munsee Say Project Violates Tribal Compact, Hits Profits

Wayne Parry/AP Photo

A Native American tribe in northern Wisconsin is asking a federal judge to block another band from expanding a competing casino.

The Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday in Madison. It alleges the Ho-Chunk Nation’s plan to expand, and add more slot machines and table games at its Shawano County casino violates the Ho-Chunk’s gambling compact with the state.

The lawsuit also alleges Gov. Scott Walker violated the Stockbridge-Munsee’s compact by not halting the Ho-Chunk expansion in Wittenberg. The Stockbridge-Munsee fear the Ho-Chunk expansion will result in the loss of millions of dollars of revenue from their own Shawano County casino.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The tribe’s nearby North Star Mohican Casino would see $22 million less a year in machine revenue, StockbridgeMunsee General Counsel Dennis Puzz said.

“In actual profits the tribe runs its governmental services off of, that would be a 74 percent decrease. And that not only affects the services directly to tribal members, but the tribe is a good steward to its resources and has many partnerships with Shawano County,” Puzz said.

State officials have said a 2003 amendment to the Ho-Chunk’s compact cleared the way for the expansion. Construction has already begun on the casino expansion.

Puzz said under federal law, the Ho-Chunk land in Wittenberg can’t be used for a casino.

“Land taken into trust before 1988 is eligible for gaming, land after ’88 generally is not,” Puzz said. “It was 1993 when they put that into trust, because of issues with their title. Therefore, that land is not eligible for gaming, and the state has the duty to step forward and enforce those provisions of the compact.”

The state Department of Justice hasn’t yet seen the lawsuit, according to a DOJ spokesman.

Walker and state Department of Administration officials say the state has no authority to intervene in the project because it complies with a 2003 compact between the Ho-Chunk and the state.

“The state of Wisconsin has been consistent honoring the compacts with all tribes in Wisconsin,” Steven Michels, communications director for DOA, said. “Under the terms of the Ho-Chunk Compact, as amended in 2003 by the Doyle administration, the Ho-Chunk are authorized to conduct gaming in Wittenberg.”