- Associated Press - Monday, January 23, 2017

WITTENBERG, Wis. (AP) - A study found an expansion of the Ho-Chunk casino in northern Wisconsin could draw $37 million a year from other American Indian tribes that own casinos in Wisconsin.

The Stockbridge-Munsee Band commissioned the economic impact study. It stands to lose about $22 million, or 37 percent, of its gambling revenue annually at its North Star Mohican Casino and Resort in Bowler.

North Star is about 17 miles away from the Ho-Chunk’s Wittenberg casino, which has broken ground on a $33 million expansion that will increase the number of slot machines from more than 500 to nearly 800. It will also add an area with high-limit gaming, as well as an 86-room hotel and 84-seat restaurant and bar.

The study by a Chicago firm found the gambling market completely saturated in Wisconsin, particularly to the north, the Wisconsin State Journal (https://bit.ly/2kjoAKI ) reported. Four other tribes stand to lose nearly $15 million at their nine casinos. Those tribes include the Potawatomi, Oneida, Chippewa and Menominee.

The Stockbridge-Munsee Band has asked the state to intervene, saying the expansion violates the terms of the Ho-Chunk Nation’s casino compact with Wisconsin. But the Department of Administration determined in September that the Wittenberg facility expansion doesn’t violate the compact.

“We’re investigating all options going forward,” said Dennis Puzz, a Stockbridge-Munsee lawyer. “If this goes forward, this is our lifeblood, this is our revenue source. If no one is going to step in and enforce the compact, we’re going to be forced to compete.”

Puzz said the tribe has asked the state to hire a lawyer to review the Ho-Chunk compact and come to a different conclusion. The tribe may consider filing a lawsuit if a resolution isn’t reached.

Administration department spokesman Steve Michels said the state hasn’t read the economic impact study yet. A spokesman for the Ho-Chunk Nation didn’t respond to the newspaper’s request for comment.

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Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, https://www.madison.com/wsj

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