Slots: coming to a truck stop near you?

Wisconsin State Roundup

Published January 1, 2004  | January 2004 issue

Deals passed last year between the state and Indian tribes may pave the way for more gambling off the highways, but only if challenges to them fail.

The agreements would open the door for expansion of "mini-casinos"—truck stops and retail operations offering slot machines and other kinds of gaming.

Two Wisconsin state legislators filed a lawsuit to block the agreements, out of concern that gambling will get out of hand. However, the economics of the mini-casino business may make their challenge unnecessary.

While several tribes are considering expansion of such facilities, there is concern that too much growth of mini-casinos might discourage visits to the more lucrative full-scale casinos. It would also be impractical to have too few machines at any location, because of the costs of operation. The restrictions require any mini-casino to use half or more of its space for other business.

In exchange for permission to expand, the tribes would pay the state about $100 million a year. In all, Wisconsin casinos pull in approximately $900 million in revenues annually.

Joe Mahon