The Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians is making good on the promise it made in early March to withhold a revenue sharing payment of $923,000 from the State of Wisconsin as the payment due date, Friday, June 30, has since passed.
The revenue payment is being withheld by the Tribe because it believes the State of Wisconsin has violated its Tribal/State gaming compact by allowing the $33 million expansion of the Ho-Chunk Nation’s Wittenberg facility, which the tribe broke ground on in September last year among opposition from the Stockbridge-Munsee and Menominee Indian Tribes, according to Shannon Mosley, Tribe President.
The Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe says that its 1992 Class III gaming compact was amended in 2003 and that amendment required the tribe to share a bigger portion of the gaming revenues in exchange for assurances that another tribe would not operate games under the Section 20 Exception of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).
Holsey reportedly said that until the dispute with the state is resolved, the Tribe has the ability within its gaming compact to withhold the payment and will do so. He says the money is currently being held in an escrow account, according to the report by Wisconsin Public Radio.
In an effort to stop the expansion, the Stockbridge-Munsee tribe has filed a federal lawsuit. The tribe contends that under state law governing small, ancillary casinos such as the one in Wittenberg, the expansion is illegal.
Prompting the lawsuit was the Wisconsin Department of Administration being on the Ho-Chunk Nation side of the argument.
An economic impact study commissioned by the Stockbridge-Munsee reportedly found that the tribe’s North Star Mohican Casino and Resort near the small village of Bowler in Shawano County would lose $22 million in machine revenue if the expansion is completed this year. If that happens, the Ho-Chunk Nation will reportedly operate half of the state’s 10 largest casinos. In contrast, the Stockbridge-Munsee operate just the one gaming facility in Bowler, which is the largest employer in Shawano County, accounting for 96 percent of the Stockbridge-Munsee’s earned revenue.
Ho-Chunk Gaming Wittenberg is about 17 miles closer to the Wausau metropolitan area on U.S. 51, a major highway and can be accessed by three other major highways.
Holsey said, “It’s difficult for us, because our casino is the only casino in the state that’s not on a major highway or a major through-way.” And, “We have to be creative about how we attract and retain, but at the end of the day, we want to be the casino of choice regardless of what is happening.”
A news release on April 20 by the Ho-Chunk Nation reportedly accused the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of slander and referred to the lawsuit as “frivolous.”