If the $27 million Ho-Chunk Wittenberg Casino expansion is completed this year, the Ho-Chunk Nation will operate five of the state’s 10 largest casinos. In contrast, the Stockbridge-Munsee operate one gaming facility, the North Star Mohican Casino Resort, which accounts for 96 percent of the Stockbridge-Munsee’s earned revenue. The impact of the Ho-Chunk Wittenberg’s illegal expansion will be devastating, with projections estimating seven tribal nations facing a combined $37 million annual loss should it be allowed to proceed. The Stockbridge-Munsee will bear the largest brunt of the impact, with an estimated $22 million annual reduction in machine revenue, according to a recent economic impact study commissioned by the Tribe. This equates to a 74 percent reduction in total profits at the North Star Mohican Casino Resort – the Stockbridge-Munsee Community’s main source of earned revenue.
“The North Star Mohican Casino Resort – our only gaming facility – is the economic lifeblood for our Tribe and the largest employer in Shawano County,” said Holsey. “We are now being forced to pursue all legal remedies available to protect our 1,470 tribal members, hundreds of employees and the various local organizations who rely on our support, such as the Shawano County Sheriff’s Department, area towns and municipalities, the Bowler and Gresham School Districts, and local parks departments.”
Fueled through gaming revenue from its one casino, the Stockbridge-Munsee broke ground in late 2016 on a new $1.3 million retail center near Highways 29 and 22 in Shawano, the only strip mall near a major highway between Wittenberg and Green Bay. In February 2017, the Tribe opened a new $1.7 million elderly care center. In addition, the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe contributes:
More than $25.8 million in gross wages for employees of the Mohican North Star Casino Resort, Tribal Government, Pine Hills Golf Course and Little Star Convenience Store
Nearly $3 million to city and county road projects since 2010 (with $1.2 million in the pipeline)
More than $100,000 each year in funding to the area’s two largest school districts
More than $200,000 each year to support neighboring communities and other Wisconsin Indian tribes
This is now all at grave and unnecessary risk, with the self-sustainability and broader economic impact of the Stockbridge-Munsee and a number of tribes put into serious question.
Call for Fair Enforcement:
As previously announced, The Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians and other tribes are calling upon Governor Walker and his Administration to fairly enforce state gaming compacts for all tribes. For decades, the State has placed clear restrictions on the size, number and nature of gaming facilities across the state, establishing a distinction between full-scale casinos and much smaller ancillary facilities. However, in a perplexing and surprising reversal on its past position, the State is allowing the Ho-Chunk Nation to broadly reinterpret its compact terms so that it can turn its ancillary gaming facilities into full-scale casino-resorts.
According to the State’s own definition, an ancillary gaming facility is restricted in both size and scope in order to clearly differentiate it from a full-scale casino. First, the non-gaming business (such as a gas station) and the gaming business must be located in the same building. Second, the gaming business must generate less than 50 percent of the combined facility’s net revenue. Finally, the non-gaming portion of the building must be physically larger than the gaming portion of the building. Neither the Ho-Chunk’s current Wittenberg facility nor its planned expansion adheres to those terms. Moreover, the Ho-Chunk compact does not allow for a full gaming facility in Shawano County. That means the current Wittenberg facility is already out of compliance with its compact as it clearly generates more than 50 percent of its revenue from gaming as it stands today.
Furthermore, longstanding questions persist regarding whether the Ho-Chunk Nation may lawfully operate any gaming facility on its lands in Shawano County. The Ho-Chunk Wittenberg Casino is operating on land that has not been determined eligible for gaming by the National Indian Gaming Commission. The refusal of State and Federal regulators to enforce the land restrictions on Indian gaming on the Ho-Chunk Nation’s land in Wittenberg essentially allows any tribe to operate any type of gaming on any land it wants.
If the unlawful expansion of the Ho-Chunk Wittenberg ancillary facility is allowed to continue, all tribal/State gaming compacts will be rendered meaningless, destabilizing Wisconsin’s carefully negotiated gaming environment, increasing the likelihood of widespread and costly litigation, and creating uncertainty about the future of State tribal gaming revenues.
The in-progress $27 million expansion of the Ho-Chunk Wittenberg ancillary facility includes 750 slot machines, a new high-limit gaming area, 10 table games, an 86-room hotel and conference center facility, and an 84-seat restaurant/bar. While still being called an “ancillary facility,” it will in fact become one of the State’s top 10 casinos, containing more slot machines and hotel rooms than presently exist at Ho-Chunk’s class III gaming facility in Black Rivers Falls, Wisconsin.
About the Stockbridge-Munsee
Tribe The Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Tribe is one of 11 tribes in Wisconsin and has approximately 1,470 tribal members throughout the state, 34 percent of whom live on the tribe’s reservation in Shawano County. The Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe is the largest employer in Shawano County and operates the North Star Mohican Casino Resort, which features 1,200 slot machines and 22 table games. The Tribe is committed to being a good steward of economic, environmental and intellectual resources in the region and strongly believes in the power of education. Each year, the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe contributes more than $100,000 in funding to the area’s two largest school districts and more than $200,000 to support neighboring communities and other Wisconsin Indian tribes. For more information about the Tribe, visit the website at http://www.mohican.com/ or the tribal Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/smcmohican/