The Stockbridge-Munsee tribe filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday hoping to block the proposed expansion of the Ho-Chunk casino in Wittenberg, Wisconsin.
The tribe is asking for a judge to block the expansion, arguing that the project violates both of the existing agreements in place between the tribes and the state.
The lawsuit argues that the Ho-Chunk development would violate the existing agreement as it included a provision for a smaller casino site where less than half of the resort’s revenue comes from gambling.
It also claims that the land was not placed into trust until 1993, in direct violation of a federal ban on gambling on trust land purchased after 1988.
Stockbridge-Munsee President Shannon Holsey announced the lawsuit saying “We don’t relish having to take this step, but do so to protect our sovereign right to self-determination.”
Construction has already begun on the site, which will add hundreds of slot machines, table games, a restaurant and hotel to the existing casino development when completed.
The North Star casino resort owned by the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans is less than 20 miles away from the Ho-Chunk casino, and the tribe fears that expansion will draw gamblers away, costing the tribe an estimated $22 million a year.
The lawsuit alleges breach of contract with the Stockbridge-Munsee tribe by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who was contacted by the tribe in late 2002 before the amendment was made. The tribe alleges that their agreement was violated by Governor Walker failing to stop the amendment of the Ho-Chunk agreement.
A Bureau of Indian Affairs ruling previously determined that the Ho-Chunk tribe placed the land into trust in 1969. Wisconsin Department of Administration Secretary Scott Neitzel has confirmed that a 2003 amendment to the existing agreement with Ho-Chunk allows the expansion of the casino site.
The Stockbridge-Munsee lawsuit is asking Federal officials to stop the construction while the lawsuit proceeds, or alternatively allow the tribe to keep its annual revenue sharing payment to the state.
It has already threatened to withhold over $1m in payments to the state of Wisconsin because of this dispute.
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