Skeptical Justices Search for Answers in Tribal Gaming Cases

By Steve Schultze, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
January  28, 2004

Madison – Sounding a bit peeved after lengthy legal arguments Tuesday over Wisconsin’s casino rules, state Supreme Court Justice Jon Wilcox called for a straight answer to what he called a “plain language” question:

“If Wisconsin wanted to eliminate Indian gambling, could we do it?” He asked the attorney representing Gov. Jim Doyle in a pair of lawsuits seeking to overturn the lucrative new tribal-state gambling compacts Doyle approved last year.

The answer from Assistant Attorney General John Greene was maybe. Through legislation or referendum, Wisconsin might be able to turn back the clock, but only if all types of gambling were banned, Greene said.

The state gets $200 million over two years in casino payments under the compacts, which lift most restrictions on games and hours.

Wilcox’s question grew from a thorny central issue in the cases before the court: What impact did a 1993 amendment restricting gambling have on the Indian casino deals? A lot, according to the state lawmakers and dog track owner that brought the lawsuits. Almost nothing, according to attorneys defending Doyle.

Wisconsin may be the only state in the United States that adopted a state amendment limiting gambling after it approved the first Indian casino compacts in 1991 and ’92, Greene said during oral arguments before the high court on two cases that challenge the tribes’ gambling authority.

That complex dynamic dominated the three hours of discussion before the court in Madison on Tuesday, an unusually long time to be allotted. The Supreme Court agreed to be the first court to hear the case – also highly unusual – because of its importance.

A decision is expected before summer.

About $100 million in payments from the tribes are due to the state on June 30 – payments that could be in jeopardy if the court invalidates the compacts.

In one case, the court is being asked to play referee between the Republican-controlled Legislature and Doyle, a Democrat. The court must determine whether the governor overstepped his authority in revisions to rules governing the state’s 17 casinos.

Filed by Senate Majority Leader Mary Panzer (R-West Bend) and Assembly Speaker John Gard (R-Peshtigo), that lawsuit charges that Doyle exceeded his powers by shutting the Legislature out of the process.

The casino deals were so far-reaching as to essentially constitute broad new policy, not just revisions of old compacts, said Gordon Baldwin, a retired University of Wisconsin Law School professor arguing the case for Panzer and Gard.

Greene said they were simply amendments to gambling compacts originally negotiated by former Gov. Tommy G. Thompson, a Republican, in the early 1990s and modified later that decade.

Panzer and Gard are not challenging the earlier gambling deals by Thompson, Baldwin said, under questioning from Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

“I don’t want to attack anything Governor Thompson has done, although I think it is attackable,” Baldwin said.

“Gov. Doyle here has written a blank check” with the new gambling deals, he said.

The public never got a chance to speak out on what’s become a gambling monopoly for the tribes, said Stephen Morgan, another attorney representing Panzer and Gard.

Morgan also held open the possibility that the Legislature together with Doyle – or perhaps even by itself – might have the power to negotiate such broad casino deals.

Lawmakers, however, handed Thompson and his successors as governor sole authority to negotiate compacts in 1991.

By seeking to attack Doyle’s power to negotiate casino deals but not Thompson’s or the Legislature’s, the Panzer and Gard suit tries to walk a delicate middle ground, Abrahamson said.

“You know what happens to a person who takes a middle position – they get hit from both sides,” she said.

Other arguments In a second case, the Alabama owners of Kenosha’s Dairyland Greyhound Park claim that the 1993 constitutional amendment limiting gambling invalidates the tribal casino deals.

At risk are some 35,000 casino-related jobs and $200 million in payments the tribes have pledged to the state, tribal officials say. The money was an important link in balancing the 2003-’05 state budget and a key component of Doyle’s new gambling deals.

Dairyland attorney Ronald Ragatz said the 1993 amendment with its specific mention of outlawing poker, roulette, craps and other casino games means the tribal casino compacts should be voided.

The hook that got Indian casinos in the state was a 1991 federal court case that said when Wisconsin voters legalized lotteries in the 1980s, they opened the door to tribal casinos offering any game that involved prizes, chance and money to play.

No state law ever expressly authorized casinos, and the ’93 amendment made it clear that such gambling was unconstitutional, Ragatz said.

Greene, the attorney for Doyle, said the 1993 amendment didn’t apply to tribal casinos because they were authorized under compacts that preceded the ban. The compacts have the force of federal law, he said.

In addition, the intent of the amendment when the Legislature agreed to hold a referendum on it was never to outlaw tribal casinos, Greene said.

Ragatz said he would have to analyze the impact of whether a ruling invalidating the new compacts would have the effect of shutting down casinos or reverting to older rules on casinos. The Dairyland case was not intended “to eviscerate” the compacts, he said.

Pressed by Abrahamson, Ragatz said that Thompson probably did not have the authority to revise gambling deals in the late 1990s.

Those compacts limited gambling to slot machines and blackjack and put restrictions on the number of slot machines at some casinos, most notably the Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee, which was then limited to 200 slots.

The Potawatomi tribe built its current $120 million building after its 1998 casino pact permitted an expansion to 1,000 slot machines.

Greene said if all revisions since that time were struck down, the casinos would likely be able to operate under provisions of the initial gambling deals of the early 1990s.

If that happened, it raises the specter of whether the Potawatomi casino would be forced to scale back to 200 slot machines.

Another $120 million expansion at the Potawatomi casino, made possible by Doyle’s deal last year, is on hold until the gambling lawsuits are resolved, said Potawatomi tribal attorney Jeff Crawford.

He said it was ironic that Dairyland sought to strike down tribal casinos while at the same time reaching agreement with the Menominee tribe to purchase the ailing Kenosha dog track as a potential off-reservation casino site.

“This is a classic example of the (suing) parties wanting to have their cake and eat it too,” Crawford said.

He also found irony in the Republican legislators’ challenge to the new gambling deals, while at the same time approving a new state budget that relies on $200 million in tribal gambling payments.

Decision Puts Water Quality in Tribe’s Hands Sokaogon Can Set Standard Near Mine

By Lee Bergquist, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel staff
June 3, 2002

The Sokaogon Chippewa have the right to regulate water quality on their reservation in northern Wisconsin – a decision that could affect the proposed Crandon mine and spur other tribes to take over regulation of their waterways.

The U.S. Supreme Court let stand on Monday a lower court decision that gave the Sokaogon, or Mole Lake, the power to set water quality standards that are higher than those now promulgated by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Those standards mean that Nicolet Minerals Co. would have to return water from its proposed zinc and copper mine in Forest County at the same pristine quality as before it came into contact with the mine.

Dale Alberts, president of Nicolet Minerals, said Monday the company could comply with stricter limits.

Perhaps more significantly, the decision is likely to open the door for other tribes to seek authority to regulate pollution on lakes, rivers and streams on their reservations – rather than rely on the DNR.

“We suspect that other tribes will be interested in this,” said Mike Lutz, a DNR lawyer.

Indeed, an official of the nearby Menominee tribe said it will ask for the same authority as the Sokaogon because tribal members believe they can police their water better than the DNR.

“Currently the State of Wisconsin and the DNR have a different agenda than we do,” said Ken Fish, director of the Menominee treaty rights and mining impact office.

State water quality regulations allow for bodies of water to absorb some commerce-created pollution because the pollution will dissipate over time, Lutz said.

But Fish said that while economic development is important to his tribe, clean water is more important.

“If our ancestors were willing to lay down their lives for this territory, certainly we can sacrifice the money, time and efforts for those who will live here in future generations,” Fish said.

Mining company confident
Regardless of the standard, Alberts said the company believes it can extract 55 million tons of zinc and copper, and smaller amounts of lead, silver and gold, without harming surrounding groundwater.

“We stayed out of that fight,” Alberts said.

“We decided that we could comply with their non-degradation standard, and we intend to do so.”

The mine would be five miles south of the Crandon and two miles east of Highway 55.

Located on about 550 acres, the ore body is about 4,900 feet long and about 100 feet wide. The mine would start about 200 feet below the surface and would extend to about 2,200 feet below the surface.

The Crandon ore body was discovered in 1975. Alberts said that while it has faced long-standing opposition, the company wants to mine it because the zinc there is one of the largest undeveloped sources in North America, and it lies within 500 miles of 64% of zinc consumption in the country.

Water quality plays a role in the mining process because groundwater seeps into the mine tunnels. Some of the water is pumped out, and some is used during the mining process. All of the groundwater has to be treated before being returned to the aquifer.

The Sokaogon live next the proposed facility and are concerned about how the mine will affect the groundwater, as well as nearby Swamp Creek and Rice Lake, which is fed by the stream. The Sokaogon harvest wild rice from the lake – and consider the annual harvest as highly important to their culture.

“We mainly harvest it for ceremonies,” said Tina Van Zile, the Sokaogon’s vice chairwoman. “It’s a very sensitive plant. If the water level dropped a foot, we could lose a crop that year.”

Decision in 2004
The DNR said a decision on whether the plant can proceed will probably not take place until 2004. The agency must still complete an environmental review before the decision goes to an administrative law judge.

There also have been numerous legislative fights related to the mine. Most recently, opponents sought legislation this year that would ban the use of cyanide in mining. Cyanide is one of the chemicals used in the mining process.

The court case pitted the Sokaogon and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency against the DNR.

The EPA argued that Congress authorized the EPA to treat the American Indian tribes the same way as states. But the DNR said it had authority over water resources within the state. The agency also said it had higher standing because Wisconsin achieved statehood before the Sokaogon were ceded land for a reservation.

But a federal appeals court panel said that the Sokaogon band was a community and American Indian culture relies heavily on water resources. Further, the court said that the ore body’s 1,850 acres are all owned by American Indians.

The Menominee, Oneida and the Lac du Flambeau tribes had previously sought to have authority over water quality matters, but backed out after an EPA attorney was charged and later convicted of faking documents to buttress the EPA’s case.

Study: Indian Casinos Should Pay State More Tribe Contends Gaming Halls’ True Taxes Top $100 Million

By Larry Sandler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Staff
February 14, 2002

A new study recommends more than tripling the amount that Indian casinos pay the state, from $24.6 million to $80 million or $90 million a year.

In the study released today for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, two University of Nevada-Las Vegas professors estimate gamblers are losing $1.1 billion a year in the 16 Wisconsin casinos. They say a business with $1.1 billion in sales would be paying $90 million a year in state and local taxes.

But tribal representatives say the casinos are actually paying more than $100 million a year to state, local and federal governments, including payments for municipal services and payroll taxes. They said it’s not fair for the study to focus only on the amount they pay to the state when the business comparison includes local property taxes.

Still, payments are likely to be an issue when Wisconsin’s 11 tribes and the state renegotiate the compacts that regulate the casinos. Those compacts are up for renewal next year. They would be renewed automatically on the same terms if not renegotiated.

Some tribes have launched an advertising blitz calling on the state to extend the compacts for longer than the five-year term of the current deals. A 30-year agreement would give the tribes the financial stability to negotiate $600 million in long-term financing for needed infrastructure improvements and economic development projects on their reservations, said Jeff Crawford, Potawatomi tribal attorney general.

If the state were willing to extend the term of the compacts, broaden the range of games that the casinos could offer and increase the amounts that gamblers could bet, the tribes would be willing to discuss higher payments to the state, Crawford said.

For its part, the state believes a case could be made for increasing tribal payments, said George Lightbourn, state secretary of administration. However, “we’re not looking to solve our budget problems with gaming revenue,” Lightbourn said, referring to the state’s $1 billion deficit.

State officials have not decided how to respond to the tribes’ request to open negotiations, Lightbourn said. However, the state will definitely want to renegotiate the compacts and would not simply let them be renewed for another five years, he said.

In their study, UNLV professors William Thompson and Robert Schmidt estimate that the amount of money wagered minus the amount of money won averages $200 a day, or $73,000 a year, for each of the casinos’ 14,218 slot machines and $1,000 a day, or $365,000 a year, for each of the 267 blackjack tables. Actual figures are not public, the study says.

If those figures are accurate, the casinos are paying about 2% of their annual revenue to the state, Thompson and Schmidt say. By comparison, Indian casinos in other states pay 25% to Connecticut and New York, 8% to New Mexico, between 2% and 10% to Michigan and nothing to Minnesota, while California uses a complicated formula to set payments, the study says.

Crawford and Bobbi Webster, spokeswoman for the Oneida tribe, said the study’s figures don’t include what the tribes pay to local governments.

The Potawatomi alone pay $3.2 million each to the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County, in addition to the $6.4 million they pay the state, Crawford said. And if payroll taxes are added in, total payments by all tribes top $100 million, he said.

Thompson said payroll taxes shouldn’t be included because they’re mostly paid on behalf of individuals. He also said tribes in other states usually pay something to local governments in addition to what they pay the states.

However, Thompson conceded his figures were incomplete. He blamed that on the lack of public information about gaming revenue from the state and federal governments. But he also said he didn’t request information from tribes or local governments.

Webster said the comparison with Connecticut was not fair because that state’s tiny tribes don’t have to support large reservation infrastructures. The Oneida have their own police force, fire department, schools and other services, Webster said.

Thompson and Schmidt also estimated that the casinos cost state and local governments $63 million in criminal justice costs and social costs from problem gamblers in such areas as unemployment pay, divorce court operations, welfare and therapy.

Webster and Crawford said the study didn’t account for the casinos’ positive benefits. Crawford said the tribes employ more than 20,000 people and donate generously to charities.

Tribe Keeps Authority to Regulate Waters on Reservation

By The Associated Press
September 25, 2001

A northern Wisconsin American Indian tribe has full authority to regulate the water quality on its reservation downstream from a proposed zinc and copper mine, a federal court ruled.

The ruling by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago could put another obstacle in the path of the proposed mine south of Crandon.

The court ruled Friday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can allow the Sokaogon Chippewa band to regulate waters on its reservation because tribal members have shown the waters are essential to their survival.

” This decision means that this ecosystem, which has sustained the tribe for all these centuries, will survive, ” the tribe’ s attorney, Glenn Reynolds of Madison, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. ” Any upstream activity cannot produce change of water quality on tribal lands.”

Nicolet Minerals Co. wants to open the zinc and copper mine in Forest County. Company spokesman Dale Alberts said the company understood the tribe’ s high water-quality standards before acquiring mining rights from Exxon in 1998.

” They have their standards and we’ re going to meet them, ” Alberts said.

The tribe’ s tough rules could strain Nicolet’ s resources, said Tina Van Zile, tribal vice chairwoman.

” All we want to do is protect what we have, ” Van Zile said. ” Our resources are everything to us. We’ re taught to respect them and we want them to be there for our generations to come.”

Nicolet Minerals is a subsidiary of BHP Ltd., headquartered in Australia. The company wants state, federal and local permits to mine 55 million tons of zinc and copper ore.

Opponents of the mine argue toxic chemicals from it will damage the environment, especially Swamp Creek and Rice Lake, which waters the tribe’ s wild rice beds.

Those who support the mine say it can operate responsibly and will create much-needed jobs.

The court rejected the state’ s appeal that argued only Wisconsin officials can regulate water quality because the state owns streams and lakebeds.

The court said the EPA has the power to regard Indian tribes as states under the Clean Water Act.

The EPA, not the state or the tribe, can issue permits for the mine, the court said. The state will decide whether to appeal by Oct. 5.

Chippewa Band Says McCallum Violated Pact Lac du Flambeau hope to force meeting on Shullsburg Casino

By Andrew Hinkel, Special to the Journal Sentinel
July 17, 2001

Madison – The Lac du Flambeau band of Chippewa Indians on Monday accused Gov. Scott McCallum of violating a 1999 agreement that the tribe says allowed it to open a casino in southwestern Wisconsin.

Tribal leaders announced at a Capitol news conference they are invoking a dispute resolution mechanism included in the gaming compact with the state that would compel McCallum’s office to meet with the tribe within 30 days to discuss plans to construct a casino in Shullsburg in Lafayette County.

The Lac du Flambeau contend that McCallum is obliged by the compact to negotiate in good faith regarding site approval for at least one off-reservation casino but his office has not responded to repeated requests for a meeting. Carol Brown, the tribe’s attorney, said that if McCallum fails to meet with the Lac du Flambeau within 30 days, the tribe could pursue action in federal court.

McCallum has said repeatedly there will be no more casinos constructed in the state under his administration. But tribal members say the compact, negotiated with former Gov. Tommy G. Thompson, is binding upon the state regardless of McCallum’s wishes.

“We relied on that promise, and spent a lot of time and money going through the necessary steps to find a location,” said Tribal Chairman Henry “Butch” St. Germaine.

Debbie Monterrey-Millett, a spokeswoman for the governor, said that the Lac du Flambeau have not followed the correct procedure for casino approval.

Specifically, she said, the plans need approval from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs before the tribe can force McCallum to negotiate with it.

“We’re the last link in the chain,” Monterrey-Millett said. “They’re still open to pursue their plans, but we do not have to meet with them until they get BIA approval.”

St. Germaine and several members of the Lac du Flambeau Tribal Council were joined at Monday’s news conference by Shullsburg Mayor Dan Morrissey and Lafayette County Board Chairman Jack Sauer. Both Shullsburg and Lafayette County have signed resolutions in support of building the casino.

Sauer said that he views a casino as a partial cure for the floundering economy of his area, which has been hit hard by declining agricultural profits.

Monterrey-Millett said the state Department of Commerce has offered Shullsburg a $25,000 grant to help the local economy but the city turned it down.

“(McCallum) understands the economic situation of that area, but we want to develop other sorts of businesses,” she said.

In another casino-related development Monday, Attorney General James Doyle said his office has moved to intervene in a federal lawsuit brought by three other Chippewa bands that are seeking approval to open a casino in Hudson.

The three bands – the Lac Courte Oreilles, Red Cliff and Mole Lake – are challenging a provision in the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act that prohibits gaming at off-reservation sites without the approval of the governor. If successful, Doyle said, his motion would allow the state and the governor to participate in the lawsuit and defend the validity of the law requiring that governors approve off-reservation gaming in their states.

Tribes File Lawsuit Challenging Governor’s Power Over Gaming

By Robert Imrie, Associated Press Writer
May 10, 2001

Three Chippewa Indian bands that want to open a casino at a financially troubled greyhound race track in western Wisconsin filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging the governor’ s power to block the project.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., claims a 1988 federal law that gives state governors the power to veto off-reservation Indian casinos is unconstitutional, said Bob Friebert, an attorney for the tribes.

” This lawsuit demonstrates that the three tribes are going to continue their fight to obtain the advantages of gaming that other tribes have had in order to help their members get out of poverty, ” Friebert said.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Lac Courte Oreilles, Red Cliff and Mole Lake bands of Lake Superior Chippewa.

Among the defendants is the U.S. Interior Department, which is responsible for enforcing the U.S. Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

In February, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs agreed to place into federal trust 55 acres of land at the St. Croix Meadows greyhound racing track for a casino operated by the tribes. The agency said a casino there would be in the best interest of the tribes without harming the surrounding community.

The deal must get the approval of Gov. Scott McCallum, who has opposed expansion of gambling operations in the state.

” It makes sense to have the governor have the authority over issues which affect the public in a state, ” McCallum said Thursday.

A call to the Interior Department was not immediately returned Thursday.

The government approvals are needed for the Hudson casino because it would not be on a tribal reservation.

The three tribes have gone to court before over the project and been successful.

The BIA’ s decision earlier this year reversed a 1995 ruling by the agency that led to a lawsuit and an out-of-court agreement to review the tribes’ casino application.

In its lawsuit filed Thursday, the tribes contend Congress cannot delegate certain obligations regarding tribes that are the federal government’ s responsibility to governors ” who are often adverse to the interests of Indian tribes for political reasons.”

The lawsuit also argues the federal gaming law violates due process by failing to give tribes any way to appeal decisions by governors.

” No governor should have this kind of authority, ” Friebert said.

The Chippewa bands proposed the Hudson casino in 1994 in a joint partnership with the Florida owners of the dog track, which is near the Twin Cities.

The bands operate casinos on their reservations, which are in rural areas.

Friebert said an Oregon tribe challenged the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act five years ago on similar grounds, and a federal judge ruled it was unconstitutional. The decision later was overturned on appeal.

The new lawsuit by the Wisconsin Chippewa bands ” is a broader-based challenge than that one, ” he said.

The Chippewa bands offered to pay $72 million to $80 million over eight years to local governments for their support of the casino, a tribal leader said.

Report: Thompson Aide Would Share $46.5 million If Casino Happens

April 15, 2001

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Regulators are looking into a contract struck by a former aide to Tommy Thompson and his partner, who would share $46.5 million if a casino is built in Kenosha, a newspaper reported.

Police also are probing whether Thompson knew about the agreement, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnists Cary Spivak and Dan Bice reported in Sunday’ s edition.

William McCoshen, 36, and his lobbying partner, Eric Petersen, 34, would split the money with the estate of Petersen’ s mentor, Jim Wimmer, the report said.

The three own Madison Consulting LLC, according to records in Wimmer’ s probate file.

Regulators in four states are looking into a secret agreement between Madison Consulting and the managers of the proposed casino, the newspaper said.

Sources told the columnists that the regulators recently talked to FBI agents about the contract.

” Part of good police work is looking for flags, ” said Indiana State Police Maj. Mark Mason. ” This raised a red flag.”

Investigators wonder whether Thompson knew about the deal while he was quietly helping to move the casino project along.

Menominee tribal leaders said they were shocked when they found out last fall how wealthy their casino would make the Madison lobbyists.

” I was absolutely floored that a contract of that size … was not made available to the tribal legislature, ” said Sylvia Wilber, a member of the Menominee legislature.

But Robert Boyle, a key partner in the company that brought Madison Consulting into the casino deal, said the amount is not out of line and would be paid only if the casino wins approval.

The project now is considered a longshot, largely because Thompson’ s successor, Gov. Scott McCallum, has vowed to oppose an expansion of gambling in the state.

Under the contract with Madison Consulting, the company would receive $4.5 million if the state and federal government allow the Menominee tribe to buy Dairyland Greyhound Park. Once the casino opens, Madison Consulting would collect $6 million per year for seven years to provide lobbying advice to the casino’ s operators.

The Menominee’ s Washington, D.C., lawyers noted in a memo to tribal leaders last fall that Madison Consulting had close ties to Thompson.

” They assisted in getting the governor’ s support for the project, beginning at least as early as 1997, ” attorneys Jerry Straus and Michael Roy wrote.

Nii-Jii Entertainment, the non-Indian company that is financing and hopes to manage the casino, said in a memo to its investors last December that the firm would provide advice to the company and the tribe in obtaining governmental approval for the casino.

A spokesman for Thompson, who now is the U.S. health and human services secretary, said the former governor knew nothing about the contract until the columnists asked about it last week.

McCoshen, Petersen or Wimmer never lobbied him on the project, and the contract played no role in the governor’ s actions when dealing with the Kenosha project, Tony Jewell said.

McCoshen and Petersen did not return repeated calls placed by the columnists seeking comment.

McCoshen was Thompson’ s chief of staff from 1992-94, ran Thompson’ s third re-election campaign and was his state commerce secretary until 1998.

Regulators in Wisconsin, Missouri, Indiana and Illinois started looking at Nii-Jii in January, sources told the newspaper columnists. The other three states are interested because they oversee the operations of Argosy Gaming Co., which signed a deal with Nii-Jii last year to help finance and run the proposed Kenosha casino. Argosy operates casinos in those states and two others.

Gaming regulators can take away an operator’ s license for associating with firms or people they consider undesirable.

Nii-Jii initially signed the consulting contract with Wimmer and Petersen in September 1997, less than two months after Madison Consulting was incorporated.

Wimmer was considered one of the most influential business lobbyists in Madison. After Wimmer’ s death three years ago, McCoshen left his job on Thompson’ s cabinet and joined Petersen to take over much of Wimmer’ s lobbying practice, including Madison Consulting.

The tribe’ s agreement with Nii-Jii calls for the Menominee to receive 65 percent of the casino’ s profits.

Chippewa Ready to Open 17th Modern-Day Spearfishing Season Tribe’s Request to Take 45,321 Walleye Determines Anglers’ Daily Bag Limits

April 13, 2001
By Robert Imrie, Associated Press

Wisconsin’s six Chippewa bands intend to spear walleyes on 283 northern lakes this spring, or 34 more than a year ago, the state said Thursday.

“The number of lakes is up a little bit, but nothing major,” said Doug Beard, treaty fisheries coordinator for the state Department of Natural Resources.

Under a formula for sharing the resource with hook-and-line anglers, the tribe’s request to spear 45,321 walleye this spring means daily bag limits for anglers will be three walleyes on 137 lakes, two walleyes on 140 lakes and one walleye on three lakes, Beard said.

One of the prime walleye lakes — the Turtle Flambeau Flowage in Iron County — has a three-fish daily limit.

The remaining 576 inland lakes in northern Wisconsin have daily limits of five walleyes for the rod-and-reel season that begins May 5, Beard said.

Two bands — the Bad River and Lac Courte Oreilles — gave the state the required 48-hour notice before they venture onto their first lake for the 17th modern-day spearfishing season, Beard said.

Spearfishing may start this weekend, but it probably won’t be done widespread until late next week, Beard said. Some northern lakes remain locked in ice.

Exercising court-affirmed 19th century treaty rights, Chippewa Indians generally start spearfishing for walleye in mid-April when the ice melts off some 200 of the best fishing lakes in the northern third of Wisconsin and walleyes venture to the shallow waters to spawn.

Spearfishing involves shining lights on the walleyes at night as boats travel along shorelines where the fish are spawning. The tribe says using fork-like spears to stab fish continues an ancient Chippewa custom.

Off-reservation spearfishing resumed in 1985 after federal courts ruled the tribe retained special hunting, fishing and food-gathering rights in treaties that ceded millions of acres of northern Wisconsin land to the federal government.

A year ago, the Chippewa speared a record 30,367 walleyes, in part because ice melted early, then the weather cooled and the spawning season was lengthened, Beard said. In 1999, spearers took 26,294 walleyes.

Last year after spearfishing concluded, daily bag limits on 79 lakes were raised after the Chippewa speared fewer walleyes than requested, the DNR said.

Any re-evaluations done this year will be announced in May, the agency said.

Other Chippewa bands with spearfishers are the Lac du Flambeau, Mole Lake, Red Cliff and St. Croix.

Casinos Don’t Pay, McCallum Tells Beloit

March 15, 2001
By Kathleen Ostrander, Special to the Journal Sentinel

Beloit – There will be no new casinos in Wisconsin, even if a tribe closes an existing one elsewhere in the state, Gov. Scott McCallum said Thursday.

In some his most emphatic comments since taking office, McCallum said casinos take wealth away from an area without giving anything back and should not be considered a form of economic development.

The Republican governor spoke to reporters after a private meeting with business and city leaders in Beloit, which is one of several communities where Indian tribes have proposed off-reservation casinos.

Former Gov. Tommy G. Thompson had maintained that the only way he would approve a tribe’s request to build a new casino was if that tribe shut down an existing one. But McCallum made it clear Thursday that he would not approve a casino even under those circumstances.

In Beloit, the St. Croix and Bad River Chippewa tribes and Illinois developer Kurt Carlson are seeking approval to build a $175 million casino, hotel and restaurant complex. While supporters tout the project as way to bring jobs to the area, McCallum said officials should look at other ways of boosting the local economy.

“Economic development is in the area of high-tech and bio-tech,” said McCallum, adding that communities pinning their economic hopes on casinos are “making a big mistake.”

“Casinos are not economic development. They take wealth from an area and don’t put it back They don’t create any wealth. I have been asked 100 times – now 101,” he joked, “and the answer is going to be the same: 17 casinos in the state is enough.”

McCallum said the state stands ready and willing to help communities with other economic development efforts, however.

Beloit officials, including Common Council President Tom Ryan, are moving forward with the approval process despite McCallum’s views. They have said that McCallum, who replaced Thompson last month and must run for the job in 2002, may not be in office in two years. Ryan declined to comment Thursday.

“They can sit on their hands for two years, but that would be a mistake,” said McCallum. “They should be looking at what can be done now for development.”

McCallum praised Beloit’s other economic development efforts, including the city’s Gateway Project, a development of more 200 acres on the city’s east side slated for light industrial, commercial and residential use.

McCallum spoke to about 30 business and city leaders Thursday morning about economic development and what the state can do to aid the Gateway Project.

McCallum announced Beloit would receive a $259,500 transportation grant to help improve rail service to the Frito-Lay plant in the city’s industrial park.

State Won’t Renew Oneida Deal Tribe Held Payment to Protest Spending

January 5, 2001
By Richard P. Jones, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Staff

Madison – The Oneida tribe failed to meet a Friday deadline for payment of nearly $5 million in gaming revenue to the state, prompting Gov. Tommy G. Thompson to take the first step toward ending the tribe’s gambling operations.

The Oneida had until 5 p.m. Friday, the end of a grace period, for the $4.85 million payment that was due on Dec. 30.

Shortly after the deadline, Thompson notified the tribe that the state would not renew its gaming compact. Administration Secretary George Lightbourn labeled the tribe’s conduct irresponsible.

Tribal Chairman Gerald Danforth and tribal spokeswoman Bobbi Webster could not be reached for comment after the deadline.

However, Danforth said earlier that the payment was being withheld to protest state spending of gaming revenue on such things as snowmobile programs when the money should be used to benefit the tribe.

Without a gaming compact, the tribe could conduct only bingo games at its casino. The casino-hotel complex, near Austin Straubel International Airport on Green Bay’s southwest side, has 2,800 slot machines, more than either the Ho-Chunk or Potawatomi casinos.

However, the existing agreement between the state and the Oneida is not scheduled to expire until May 2003. The state’s only immediate recourse was to issue a notice of non-renewal.

“Technically, they could continue to operate,” Lightbourn said.

“A non-renewal is just that,” Webster said in an earlier interview. “They would not renew the compact. So right now, we would and will continue to operate under a valid compact.”

Lightbourn said the state had little recourse, apart from going to court, something it may pursue.

“We would pursue it aggressively,” said Lightbourn, adding that he expected Attorney General Jim Doyle to cooperate in legal action.

Lightbourn said the notice would be issued with a directive barring negotiations on a new compact until 2003, when the existing compact expires.

“If there is a compact in the future, it would be entirely different; it would be a much tougher compact than the current one,” he said.

For starters, the state would insist on penalty provisions for missed payments and the power to close a casino for a compact violation, Lightbourn said.

The state also would press for the ability to sue in state court instead of federal court, he said. He said the tribe would be expected to waive its sovereign immunity.

Despite Lightbourn’s prediction of dire consequences, Danforth had insisted the Oneida would not make the latest payment because the tribe was upset with how the state was using the money.

According to the Oneida, the state is supposed to put the tribal gaming funds to two uses: economic development benefiting the tribes and areas where casinos are located, and tourism promotion. The state receives $23 million a year from all tribes.

In a letter to Thompson, the tribe objected to spending the money on snowmobile enforcement programs, elk management and studies of crop damage by cranes. But Lightbourn said the state could spend $6 million of the total at its discretion.

Lightbourn said that he and Danforth were on good terms, but his dealings with the tribe had been especially difficult.

Mindful of the tribe’s complaints about state use of gaming funds, Lightbourn said that he met recently with Danforth and other tribal officials to go over spending proposals the governor planned to include in the state budget to be introduced soon.

“We had a good meeting,” Lightbourn said. “They had some interesting ideas, and the next thing we hear, they’re not making the payment.”

Tribe’s Gamble Doesn’t Pay Off Governor Won’t Renew Gaming Compact with Oneida

By Scott Hildebrand and Femi Cole, The Post-Crescent
January 6, 2001

MADISON — The state of Wisconsin will not renew its gaming agreement with the Oneida Tribe of Indians when it expires in 2003, Gov. Tommy Thompson said Friday.

Thompson’s decision will not end the Oneida casino operations, which are among the most successful gaming operations in Wisconsin. However, it could force the Oneida to negotiate a new agreement, which one state official said would have “much tougher” provisions.

In a strongly worded letter to Oneida Tribal Chairman Gerald Danforth, Thompson accused the tribe of not acting as a responsible corporate citizen or governmental entity.

The action came after the tribe failed to make a $4.85 million payment to the state required by the state-tribal gaming compact. Earlier this week, Thompson set a deadline of 5 p.m. Friday for the tribe to make the payment, which initially was due Dec. 30.

“The notice is the consequence of the tribe’s repeated irresponsible conduct,” Thompson said. “The state will no longer tolerate such conduct.”

But during a meeting of the tribe’s business committee Friday night at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center in Ashwaubenon, Danforth said any misconduct is on the part of the state. About 70 tribal members attended the meeting.

“During the course of this past year we have been unable to address these issues face to face with the state,” Danforth said. “This is the first communication I’ve received from him this year,” he said holding Thompson’s letter.

The tribe maintains that northeastern Wisconsin is not receiving its fair share of the money that the tribe contributes to the state.

Administration Secretary George Lightbourn, Thompson’s top aide and liaison to the tribes, said the state will not rescind the nonrenewal notice even if the tribe eventually pays the money to the state.

To continue its casino gambling operations beyond the compact’s expiration date, the tribe would have to negotiate a new agreement with the state, Lightbourn said. He said the state will insist on tougher provisions in a new compact, including the ability to levy fines and close a casino for non-compliance.