The Stockbridge-Munsee Indians Withhold a $923,000 Revenue Sharing Payment from the State of Wisconsin
The Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe announced it would withhold a revenue sharing payment from the State of Wisconsin, because it believes the state violated its longstanding gaming compact. The payment to be withheld is $923,000.
The withheld payments concern the Wittenberg Casino, an operation owned by the Ho-Chunk Nation. The Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe pointed out two violations of the compact caused by the development of the Ho-Chunk casino. A bit of background information is required.
2003 Gaming Compact Violations
The Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe signed a gaming compact with the state in 1992. In 2003, that compact was amended, so the tribe would provide a larger percentage of their revenues. In exchange, the state agreed to protect the Stockbridge-Munsee (and the Menominee Tribe) from tribes operating games discussed in the Section 20 Exception to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).
The Stockbridge tribe claims that state’s decision to allow the Ho-Chunk tribe to open the casino in Wittenberg is a violation of that 2003 compact. At present, the Ho-Chunk operate a Class II casino with 500 gaming machines on land which has not been legal under the IGRA law since 2008.
$27 Million Wittenberg Casino Expansion
Also, the Stockbridge tribe says a $27 million expansion of the Wittenberg casino in September 2016 is a violation of the compact. In this case, the expansion allows the Ho-Chunk Indians to go beyond their legal scope.
The president of the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribal Council, Shannon Holsey, released a statement providing legal justification of the withholding of funds. Holsey’s letter read, “While we must protect our sovereign right to self-determination, we have always enjoyed a productive relationship with the State of Wisconsin and we hope that Governor Walker will heed our requests for fair compact enforcement so that this matter can be resolved without expensive and protracted litigation.”
Tribe’s Reasons for Withholding Payments
Holsey listed a number of concerns the tribe has with the State of Wisconsin’s conduct. She said, if the Wittenburg Casino expansion is completed, that the Ho-Chunk Nation will operate half of the state’s ten largest casinos. By way of comparison, the Stockbridge-Munsee operate 1 casinos, the North Star Mohican Casino Resort, which accounts for 96% of the tribe’s earned revenue.
According to the tribal spokeswoman, the Wittenburg Casino expansion is going to be devastating to her tribe’s finances. Because the North Star Mohican facility is also Shawano County’s largest employer, the Ho-Chunk’s newest gaming expansion is going to be devastating to the economy of Shawano County.
Will Lose $22 Million in Revenues
The tribe conducted scientific research and found that the new gaming operation would cost the North Star Mohican Casino $22 million in revenues each year. Shannon Holsey wrote of her tribe’s plight, saying, “As our only gaming facility, the North Star Mohican Casino Resort is the economic lifeblood for our Tribe and hundreds of Shawano County families.
“Nearly 500 letters from concerned tribal members, employees, Shawano County residents and other tribal nations have been sent to the Governor and his administration requesting gaming compacts be fairly enforced and the unlawful Wittenberg expansion be stopped, with no response.”
Holsey also noted that the loss of funds would hurt the county’s sheriff’s department, the school districts for Bowler and Gresham, and park facilities throughout the county. City and county road projects would have to be scaled back, while smaller local communities would lose a large percentage of their funding.
Comparison of the Two Casinos
The North Star Mohican Casino contains 1,200 slot machines and 22 table games on its gaming space. The reservation on which it stands holds 34% of the 1,400 Stockbridge-Munsee Indians in the state of Wisconsin.
The $27 million expansion of the Wittenburg casino would add 750 slot machines, 10 table games, and a high stakes playing area. More hotel rooms, a convention center, and a new restaurant and bar are being built. While the State of Wisconsin considers these “ancillary” additions, the new expansion would make the Wittenburg facility one of the ten largest casinos in the state.
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