Ho-Chunk: Tribe Would Get Taxpayer Money if Kenosha Casino Built

A new casino in Kenosha could cost taxpayers money, according to the Ho-Chunk nation, a native tribe that already has a gaming compact with the state and operates six casinos. In a letter sent to Governor Scott Walker last month, President Jon Greendeer of the Ho-Chunk warned that if his tribe’s casinos lost enough revenue due to a casino in Kenosha, the state legislature may be required to pay a fee to his tribe.

“If the reduction in Class III gaming revenues is greater than the annual payment the Nation makes to the State, the Governor is obligated to seek an appropriation from the State Legislature to make up the difference to be paid to the Nation,” Greendeer wrote.

Currently, all tribes with casinos in Wisconsin pay the state a fee outlined in their gaming compact. According to the Ho-Chunk’s compact, if their revenues drop thanks to another casino opening with state approval, then their fee will be reduced. If the amount of money they end up losing because of the other casino exceeds the amount of money they were paying the state, then the legislature would be required to appropriate taxpayer money to reimburse the casino.

Greendeer partially described the process in his letter, “The purpose of these negotiations is for Nation and State to conclude an indemnification agreement whereby the Nation shall reduce its annual payment to the State by the amount its Class lll gaming revenues are reduced due to a new gaming facility.”

The Menominee Tribe want their Kenosha casino approved, and this week they unveiled an offer to pay the state more money to offset any state income lost due to reduced payments from other tribes. “We guarantee to offset any impact to other tribes,” declares a presentation prepared by the Menominee that details their willingness to pay the state more money to make up for any lost revenue from other casinos.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the development this way:

“The Menominee tribe will increase its promised payments to the state to offset any losses at competing casinos that result from opening an off-reservation casino in Kenosha, tribal chairman Craig Corn said Wednesday.”

The paper’s article did not note the threat of the Ho-Chunks to get the state to pay them money if their own revenue losses are high enough.

The exact wording of the Ho-Chunk gaming compact reads:

“If the amount of the Reduction exceeds the amount of Payment, then the Governor shall seek an appropriation (“Appropriation”) from the State Legislature to pay the Nation the difference between the amount of the Reduction and the Payment.”

The agreement to have taxpayers write a check to the Ho-Chunk if another casino caused their revenue to drop was put into effect in 2003 by Democrat Governor Jim Doyle’s administration.

Another casino likely to be impacted by the proposed Kenosha casino is the Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee. Located only 35 miles away from the planned location of the Menominee casino, it would likely see its own revenues drop should a gambling expansion occur.

The gaming compact the Potawatomi have with the state has a clause in one of its amendments that specifies that if the state approves of Class III gaming within 50 miles of the Potawatomi casino in Milwaukee, the tribe no longer has to pay certain fees to the state. Governor Doyle was the one who approved that amendment to the compact in 2003. Just how that clause applies to the current debate is not clear.

Governor Walker has said he will make a decision about the Kenosha casino by the end of this week.