Tribes roll lucky seven in high court

Wisconsin State Roundup

Published September 1, 2006  | September 2006 issue

In a challenge to the spread of Indian gaming in Wisconsin, the state Supreme Court voted 7-0 that such gaming is legal. The suit was brought by owners of a dog track in Kenosha, the sole remaining player among about a half-dozen in the state before the introduction of Indian gaming.

The win was a double jackpot for the tribes, because the court also found that the state's constitution does not limit the types of games that can be offered in tribal casinos. In 2003, Gov. Jim Doyle renegotiated tribal compacts with 10 of the state's 11 gaming tribes that allowed them to offer high-stakes games—craps, roulette, poker and others, to go along with existing games of blackjack and slots—in exchange for higher payments to the state. One year later, the high court ruled that the governor had exceeded his negotiating authority, setting the matter up for further judicial review.

The decision is expected to clear the way for a $240 million casino expansion near downtown Milwaukee by the Potawatomi tribe, a move that is expected to create 1,000 new jobs. The only judicial setback for the tribe was a ruling that gambling compacts must have expiration dates. Those negotiated in 2003 had none.

Ronald A. Wirtz