The Ho-Chunk Nation is putting the finishing touches on an expansion at its gaming facility in Wittenberg, Wisconsin. Photo: Ho-Chunk Gaming Wittenberg

Ho-Chunk Nation wins ruling in favor of contested casino expansion in Wisconsin

In a victory for the Ho-Chunk Nation, the tribe has been dismissed from a lawsuit that challenged a casino expansion project.

The tribe is spending $33 million to add a hotel, a restaurant and bar and more space to the gaming floor at its casino in Wittenberg. In a lawsuit filed in federal court, the Stockbridge-Munsee Community contends the project is illegal.

But Judge James Peterson said Stockbridge-Munsee leaders waited too long to go to court. Wittenberg opened in 2008 so the lawsuit should have been filed within six years after that, the judge determined.

“They could have sued the Ho-Chunk then. Instead, they acquiesced to the Wittenberg casino for nearly a decade until the Ho-Chunk decided to expand,” the October 25 decision stated, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.

The ruling doesn't apply to the state of Wisconsin, the other defendant in the lawsuit. But it's possible that the same legal theory could be used to dismiss the case, Courthouse News Service suggested.

A provision in the Ho-Chunk Nation's Class III gaming compact authorizes Class III gaming at four primary facilities and five ancillary facilities. The casino in Wittenberg is considered an ancillary facility. Source: Wisconsin Department of Administration

The Stockbridge-Munsees operate the North Star Casino Resort in Bowler, about 16 miles from Wittenberg. The Ho-Chunk expansion will draw business away from North Star, Stockbridge-Munsee leaders fear.

At issue is whether the Wittenberg still meets the definition of an "ancillary" facility under the Class III gaming compact. According to the agreement, the primary purpose of an "ancillary" facility should be non-gaming.

The Ho-Chunk Nation's compact authorizes Class III gaming at four primary facilities and five ancillary facilities. The tribe is putting the finishing touches on expansions and renovations at three of those facilities.

A grand opening at Wittenberg was originally slated for October 12 but has been pushed back to Wednesday, November 1.

“We are very excited to open our doors for all of our valued guests to enjoy the extended gaming floor and added amenities,” said director of marketing Tracy Pecore. “It has been many years in the planning stages to make the Ho-Chunk Gaming Wittenberg expansion a reality and we’ve come a long way since the doors first opened in 2008.”

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, Stockbridge-Munsee Community v. State of Wisconsin.

Read More on the Story:
Judge deals setback to lawsuit to block Ho-Chunk casino expansion (The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel October 25, 2017)
Judge dismisses Ho-Chunk Nation from lawsuit over northern Wisconsin casino expansion (The Wisconsin State Journal October 25, 2017)
Judge Won’t Block Wisconsin Tribe’s Contested Casino Expansion (Courthouse News Service October 26, 2017)
Ho-Chunk Wittenberg casino expansion lawsuit dismissed (WSAU October 26, 2017)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
Stockbridge-Munsee Band makes good on threat to withhold casino funds (June 30, 2017)
Ho-Chunk Nation remains confident as rival tribe sues over casino (April 20, 2017)
Stockbridge-Munsee Band sues to stop expansion of rival casino (April 19, 2017)
Ho-Chunk Nation continues to defend legality of casino expansion (April 10, 2017)
Stockbridge-Munsee Band prepares possible lawsuit in casino feud (April 6, 2017)
Stockbridge-Munsee Band withholds casino revenue in Wisconsin (March 7, 2017)