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Tribes object to Ho-Chunk casino expansion east of Wausau (UPDATE)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Two Wisconsin Indian tribes have raised concerns about another tribe’s expansion of a once-limited gambling hall into a larger casino and hotel east of Wausau.

The Stockbridge-Munsee and Menominee tribes said allowing the expansion of Ho-Chunk Wittenberg goes against the past criteria for growth in gambling that Gov. Scott Walter established and used to block a casino the Menominee sought in Kenosha.

The Ho-Chunk and Walker said Wisconsin doesn’t have the authority to intervene in this case because the Ho-Chunk are staying within the letter of a 2003 compact with the state.

“The question in the Kenosha casino proposal was whether private land would be taken into trust by the United States for the Menominee so a tribal casino could be constructed on that land. In such a case, the governor has broad authority to approve or deny taking the private land into trust,” said administration spokesman Steve Michels. “In this case… the question is whether the Ho-Chunk Nation’s expansion on the parcel violates the provisions of the Ho-Chunk Nation’s compact. It does not.”

Stockbridge-Munsee president Shannon Holsey said he doesn’t think the Walker administration fully grasps the potential for the expansion to lead to more expansions by the Ho-Chunk and at least two other tribes.

State Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, is concerned for the effects the expansion could have on smaller tribes.

“The larger tribes have to be more sensitive to what I would call the less economically advantaged poorer tribes,” Cowles said. “We’ve got a flock of smaller tribes that are struggling. If the larger tribes don’t show some concern about that, it’s not fair.”

Last month the Ho-Chunk Nation broke ground on the $33 million expansion that will expand gambling opportunities in the facility and construct a hotels, restaurant and bar.

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