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Report: Pandemic cut tribal gaming payments by nearly 82%

Tribal gaming payments to Wisconsin’s general fund declined by nearly 82% last fiscal year as the pandemic forced tribes to close their casinos, hotels and restaurants, according to a report released Thursday.

Wisconsin tribes have signed compacts with the state that give them the exclusive right to offer gambling in exchange for payments to the state. The money is divided between the state general fund and programs that benefit tribal members, such as revitalizing native languages.

The analysis from the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum found that tribes funneled only $5.3 million to the state general fund in the year that ended June 30. That’s down from $29.1 million in the previous year.

The state Department of Administration initially estimated the tribes would send about $27 million to the fund in 2021 but now projects they will send nothing. Tribal gaming payments represent less than 0.2% of the $18 billion in revenue that goes into the state general fund each year.

The tribes appear unlikely to cover budgeted appropriations for benefit programs for the rest of this fiscal year, which ends June 30. State agencies are authorized to spend up to $29.7 million but that will likely mean they’d have to pull money from the general fund to make up for gaming revenue losses.

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