In Wisconsin, U.S. District Judge James Peterson’s ruling on Wednesday all but clears the way for the Ho-Chunk Nation to open the $33 million expansion of its Wittenberg casino, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
In April this year, the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker and the Ho-Chunk Nation claiming the state violated its compact with the tribe [Stockbridge-Munsee] by allowing the Ho-Chunk Nation to develop a Class III gambling facility near its sole gaming property, Northstar Mohican Casino & Resort, located in Bowler about 25 minutes away. Stockbridge-Munsee leaders fear the Ho-Chunk expansion will cannibalize business from North Star.
In September 2016, the Ho-Chunk Nation broke ground on a $33 million expansion of its Wittenberg facility, which will increase the slot count from 506 to 778, add a high-limit gaming area and 10 table games, along with an 86-room hotel and restaurant and bar with seating for 84.
According to the newspaper, Judge Peterson, on Wednesday dismissed the Ho-Chunk Nation from the suit, finding that the leaders of Stockbridge-Munsee waited too long to initiate the suit against the Ho-Chunk, having only sued in 2017 rather than in 2008 when the Wittenberg casino first opened. The judge said that the Stockbridge-Munsee, who were seeking a preliminary injunction to block table games and slot machines in the expansion of the Wittenberg casino, should have filed the lawsuit prior to 2014 when the six-year statute of limitations ended. The judge also dismissed the motion by the Stockbridge-Munsee for a preliminary injunction.
Judge Peterson reportedly wrote, “They have known the facts supporting each element of their claims since 2008.” The Oct. 25 decision further stated, “They could have sued the Ho-Chunk then. Instead, they acquiesced to the Wittenberg casino for nearly a decade until the Ho-Chunk decided to expand,” as reported by The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Judge Peterson did not, however, decide whether the Stockbridge-Munsee’s claims against Gov. Walker and the state of Wisconsin are late as well. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, neither of the defendants has requested a dismissal, the judge wrote, “Should the Stockbridge-Munsee fail to show that its claims against the state are timely, the court will dismiss the claims against the state.”
Ho-Chunk spokesman Collin Price said the expansion project is approximately 85 percent complete and that on November 1 the gaming floor will open, with the hotel and the remainder of the project slated for completion in February.