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Tribal Battle against Wisconsin Ho-Chunk Nation Casino Expansion Inches Forward

Tribal gambling development across the state of Wisconsin has been among the hot topics over the span of more than a year, as the Ho-Chunk Nation’s efforts to expand its casino venue became the apple of discord in the spring of 2017. This Wednesday witnessed a renewed legal battle led by Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans, striving to protect the tribal rights.

This week would go down in history as a memorable one as arguments against the expansion were presented in front of a three-judge panel on Wednesday. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit thoroughly inspected the provided reasoning for the legal dispute. US Judge Ilana Rovner was set to get to the bottom of the situation, while Stockbridge-Munsee’s Attorney Scott David Crowell offered the tribal point of view.

Legal Battle in Court Continues

Estimating the true potential of the venue prior to the expansion, Stockbridge-Munsee deemed it unnecessary to commence legal battle. As soon as the plans were announced, projections of considerable capital loss were made, prompting the legal actions. According to the estimations made soon after the announcement, over the span of twelve months of operation, the casino venue would fail to rake up some $22 million due to the Ho-Chunk expansion.

As a result, the tribe management would fail to guarantee the well-being of its members, negatively impacted in the long run. Judge Frank Easterbrook, also part of the panel stated that the Indian Regulatory Gaming Act does not prohibit competition between Native American tribal businesses.

Nevertheless, Stockbridge-Munsee is seeking to protect its rights and have voiced its strong opposition to future development. The Wittenberg casino in its ancillary state has been in undisrupted operation ever since 2008, but recent actions stirred the pot.

Timeline of the Events Since 2016

A lot has been said and done since August 2016, when the Ho-Chunk Native American tribe announced its plans to work on the expansion of its casino venue in Shawano County. In an attempt to bring a wider variety of gaming offerings as well as to provide its casino patrons with more activities, the tribe decided that it is going to introduce some 800 slot devices, as well as 10 gaming tables to its venue.

In addition to that, the location was also going to be improved by the introduction of a hotel featuring some 86 rooms, a premium restaurant, and a bar. However, the plans were estimated to directly interfere with the status quo and the booming North Star Casino overseen by the Stockbridge-Munsee tribe. As a tribal gambling facility, the location has always been able to attract the attention of many casino enthusiasts.

It provides work for as many as 460 employees and some 56 of them are people from the Native American tribe. Pointing out the legal side of the things, the tribe also made it clear that such expansion would be in direct breach of the existing Class III compact. The said arrangement obliges the tribe to manage only an ancillary facility, meaning that at least half of the building should not be occupied by gaming devices.

The Stockbridge-Munsee tribe claims that there has also been a violation of its own compact since Gov. Scott Walker did not prevent the casino expansion which later hit a roadblock. More development on the case is expected in the foreseeable future, potentially arranging the dispute.

 Author: Hannah Wallace

Hannah Wallace has been part of our team since the website was launched. She has a master’s degree in IT.