Indian Gaming Today

Friday, July 28, 2006

Wisconsin’s Roller Coaster Ride

Thread: Current Events

Another twist in Wisconsin's roller coaster ride of Indian gaming and state public policy.

On Friday, July 14, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a decision in Dairyland Greyhound Park v. Doyle (available in pdf here). The case involved the impact of a 1993 state constitutional amendment prohibiting casino-style gaming on the original tribal-state compacts, which were negotiated in 1992 and allowed tribes to operate slot machines and blackjack tables, and left the door open to more casino games in the future -- all of which were banned in the state by the 1993 amendment. At the time, the 1993 amendment gave the state a huge bargaining advantage -- it was, at the discretion of the state, the "death penalty" for Indian gaming in Wisconsin, and allowed then-Gov. Tommy Thompson to put tribal treaty rights on the table (we wrote an article on Thompson's tactics, "Do 'Fish and Chips' Mix? The Politics of Indian Gaming in Wisconsin," Gaming Law Review vol. 2, p. 129 (1998)).

As the state became more reliant on tribal gaming profits, the tables turned a bit. Now it was in the state's interest, at least its budgetary interest, to have Class III games available to tribes. In a 2004 case, Panzer v. Doyle, the Wisconsin Supreme Court all but undid newly negotiated compacts with expanded casino games and revenue sharing provisions (for $100 million annually from tribes) and suggested that the 1992 compacts may have been invalidated by the 1993 amendment. In Dairyland, though, the court stated:

"We conclude that the 1993 Amendment . . . does not invalidate the Original Compacts . . . . We withdraw any language to the contrary in Panzer v. Doyle . . . . Accordingly, [Indian gaming in Wisconsin] can be expanded to the extent that the State and Tribes negotiate for additional Class III games."

What's the bottom line? Despite Panzer v. Doyle, expect big-time revenue sharing to be back on the table in Wisconsin.


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