Wisconsin Tribes Quarrel Over Potential Casino Expansion

In Wisconsin, casinos are owned and operated by the many Native American tribes that exist across the large state. Though the Wisconsin gaming industry is admittedly quite small, the fact of the matter is that it is a major source of revenue for these aforementioned tribes. The revenues brought in by casino gambling help provide services for the disabled and elderly, however certain communities feel as though that revenue stream is coming under threat.

In recent months, the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans and the Ho-Chunk Nation have not been seeing eye to eye with regard to the Ho-Chunk’s intent to expand their Northern Wisconsin casino resort. While this, in and of itself, is not the biggest deal, it is made a bit more significant due to the prevailing belief that an expansion on the part of the Ho-Chunks would mean a revenue hit suffered by the Stockbridge-Munsee.

From a Casino to a Casino Resort

The Ho-Chunk Nation already own and operate a casino that is situated very close to the Stockbridge-Muness reservation, and this has been the case for years now. In recent months, however, the Ho-Chunk’s have expressed their intent to turn what is now simply a casino, to a full-fledged casino resort. Among their many complaints, the Stockbridge-Munsee have claimed that an expansion on the part of the Ho-Chunk will inevitably result in less gambling revenue for the Stockbridge-Munsee.
The Stockbroidge-Munsee are fighting the Ho-Chunk’s so severely because the gaming revenue that is believed to be lost is revenue that goes directly towards services that benefit their community’s less fortunate. Services that take care of the elderly and disabled are the first that would be axed if gambling revenues dissipate, and this is not something that is being taken lightly.

Limited Number of Options

According to the way the law works currently, tribes are only able to host casino games on reservation lands or lands held in federal trust. Being that there are very few new plots of land where tribes can erect a casino, Native tribes are left to expand the casinos that already exist. So, rather than opening a diverse number of locations in different parts of the state, the Ho-Chunks’ only real option is to expand their existing casino.

What is currently playing out in Wisconsin is something that has and continues to happen in states like Connecticut and California. Even as recently as last year in Wisconsin, tribes have been battling with regard to expansion.

Speaking to the media, Ho-Chunk spokesperson Collin Price was quoted as saying, “The only issue here is dealing with competition. The tribes own businesses. These businesses provide resources and programs for tribal members. That’s why it’s so important to protect them and try to offer more.”

In the same breath, the Stockbridge-Munsee want to protect the services that gambling supports, and an expansion on the part of the Ho-Chunks would threaten that. While it is still early, and a lot still needs to be figured out, the fact of the matter is that competition between tribes and casinos is not going anywhere quickly, so we can expect multiple stories just like this one as we move forward through the year.