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View from around the state: Walker needs to answer questions in tribal gaming fight

Whatever happened to Gov. Scott Walker’s criteria for expanding tribal gaming in Wisconsin? And why isn’t his administration considering those criteria in the fight between the Ho-Chunk Nation and the Stockbridge-Munsee Community over Ho-Chunk plans to expand its gambling operations?

In 2013 during the fight over whether to allow the Menominee tribe to build a casino in Kenosha, Gov. Scott Walker set three criteria: the casino must have community support; it must not add any net new gaming, and there must be consensus support among the state’s 11 tribes.

In the end, Walker rejected the casino. While it had community support, it would have brought more gambling to Wisconsin and it was strongly opposed by the Potawatomi and Ho-Chunk tribes, who feared a new casino near the Illinois line would cut into their take.

Granted, there are key differences in the fight over the $33 million expansion of the Ho-Chunk’s Wittenberg gambling hall. The Ho-Chunk Nation is not proposing a new off-reservation casino; it wants to expand operations on a current “ancillary” site, and maintains it has every right to do so.

But the Stockbridge disagree to the point where they’re suing the state, arguing that the expanded operation would cut millions annually from the revenue from their casino in nearby Bowler and that the Ho-Chunk have no right to expand the Wittenberg operation. This could cost the state money: The Stockbridge also said it would withhold a nearly $1 million payment to the state because it believed Wisconsin regulators were not holding the Ho-Chunk to the terms of its casino agreement.

The state says it is honoring the casino agreements, and that “the Ho-Chunk are authorized to conduct gaming in Wittenberg.”

But does that mean the Ho-Chunk are allowed to expand even what was originally designated as a secondary site at will without regard for its impact on the state and nearby tribes? Isn’t the Ho-Chunk adding net new gaming, and isn’t it being done despite the opposition of other tribes?

The Walker administration needs to answer these questions before the Ho-Chunk is allowed to proceed.

— Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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