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Reality Check: Disagreements Over Ho-Chunk Casino Payments Continue

Published On: Mar 28 2006 06:39:30 AM CST   Updated On: Mar 28 2006 06:59:54 AM CST
MADISON, Wis. -

According to the latest radio ad from the Ho-Chunk Nation, the ongoing dispute over casino payments boils down to the case of the steak versus the hamburger.

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The Ho-Chunk ad compares its gaming compact to a steak and then to a hamburger, WISC-TV reported.

The steak refers to the Ho-Chunk's 2003 agreement struck with Gov. Jim Doyle, which allowed the casino to offer more games like craps and roulette. In exchange, the Ho-Chunk agreed to pay more money to the state, about $30 million annually. As part of the deal, this contract would never expire.

In 2004, however, the state Supreme Court said that the agreement was unconstitutional. This is where the hamburger comes in.

"When the courts struck down key provisions of the Ho-Chuck Nation's gaming compact, they took a steak and turned it into a hamburger," the radio ad said. "And now, some state officials still insist the Ho-Chunk owe them for the price of the steak ? Common sense, the law and the compact all say otherwise."

Here's where the analogy might need some clarification.

The Supreme Court decision threw out the deal mainly because it would never expire. But, the Ho-Chunk decided on its own to operate under the old deal.

It essentially picked the hamburger while all the other tribes kept the steak, WISC-TV reported.

A provision in the 2003 agreement said that the Ho-Chunk Nation could, but doesn't have to pay more until a new deal is reached, and so far, that hasn't happened.

According to the old agreement, the Ho-Chunk paid the state about $8 million a year, but since the decision in 2004, no money has been paid.

The ad doesn't mention that the Ho-Chunk is the only holdout, and that all the other tribes made the larger payments because they kept the games.

In the case of the Ho-Chunk, it's roughly $20 to $30 million a year.

The Ho-Chunk Nation and state officials have agreed to arbitration in this case. A hearing is scheduled for May and a decision is expected by July, WISC-TV reported.

In the meantime, both sides continue to talk and could reach a deal on their own.

Last fall, the Potawatomi Nation agreed to a 25-year compact with expanded games and they paid what was expected under the 2003 compacts.

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