The Ho-Chunk tribe missed an initial deadline Monday to pay an estimated $72 million in gambling money that state officials are counting on to help balance an already stressed state budget.
It’s now been more than two years since the tribe, locked in a legal battle with the state over its gambling compact, has made any payments on its casino operations.
The lingering dispute raises the question of whether the state will receive nearly $100 million in estimated payments expected by June 2009 in time to prevent a gaping hole in a budget that could force lawmakers to raise taxes, cut services or borrow money to make up the difference.
The tribe continues to offer expanded games such as poker and roulette that were agreed to in the 2003 compact, but it has stopped making the payments that were also required under that deal.
Doyle said the tribe owes the payments and that state officials will continue to pursue enforcement efforts in federal court — the only recourse available to Wisconsin under federal Indian gaming laws.
“Every other tribe in the state has paid it, and the fact (is) the Ho-Chunk just haven’t, but we believe it’s owed,” Doyle said.
Thomas Springer, a lobbyist for the tribe, said the Ho-Chunk have been trying to resolve the matter ever since the Supreme Court ruled on another tribe’s casino agreement. That decision in effect invalidated the Ho-Chunk’s agreement with the state, he said.
Another item to ponder with respect to potential changes in redistributed state tax dollars for education.