By Joe Morey
The annual Wisconsin state-tribal consultation for the Department of Revenue and the Department of Administration was held in Black River Falls on Dec. 6, 2023, hosted by the Ho-Chunk Tribe. Representing Lac Courte Oreilles was Vice Chairman Tweed Shuman, Sec-Treasurer Bill Trepanier and Attorney General James Schlender Jr to address the topics impacting the Tribe. The tribal leadership of the 11 Tribes of Wisconsin met the Cabinet Secretaries for Governor Tony Evers. Secretary Peter Barca for DoR and Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld for DoA.
Vice-Chairman Shuman addressed several issues negatively impacting LCO. Primary was the state inability to honor the gaming exclusivity provisions that is in all Wisconsin tribal gaming compacts. The exclusivity provisions promise that tribes shall operate Class III gaming operations exclusive of non-tribal interests.
According to Shuman, the Wisconsin Constitution prohibits gambling in the state, thus making it illegal to operate Class II or Class III gaming in Wisconsin state land or by non-tribal businesses. The unconstitutional conduct of the state and various non-tribal businesses interferes with tribal gaming operations.
“The DoA is responsible for the regulation of non-tribal gaming operations in Wisconsin and to enforce penalties against violators of those regulations” Shuman said. “The state has failed in this regard and it’s impacting tribal operations state-wide, so much so that taverns and local establishments are acting without any worry of repercussion from state agencies.”
Shuman stated that as of right now nearly every bar in northern Wisconsin operates facsimile games of chance.
Shuman explained that the state agency within the DoA created to regulate and oversee gaming operations in Wisconsin is the Department of Gaming and that they are purposefully underfunded by the state legislature. He added the Tavern League of Wisconsin also pushes to block tribal gaming interests.
“Tribes, under the same gaming compact, are required to submit annual audits of the casino operations to DOA and the Legislative Audit Bureau,” Shuman said. “There is no such requirements for any other establishment in Wisconsin.”
Shuman went on, “The games are not regulated by the DOA as it would be illegal. The machine’s payouts are not audited as they are illegal games. The state permits the transportation of the games inside state boundaries to be leased and operated by local tavern owners,” Shuman explained.
Shuman said the operation of these games interferes with the legitimate gaming operations run by Tribes. The state has a duty to enforce state consultation and state statutes which prohibit gaming.
“If the Joint Finance Committee can hold back gaming compact money to Lac du Flambeau and Bad River, how bout they hold back shared revenue from Townships,” stated Shuman. He went to say that litigation to enforce gaming provisions has been discussed with tribal leadership.